A banquet at Breezy Point’s convention center is as normal as snow in winter. On Thursday, March 14, over 200 area residents gathered at Breezy for the annual Friends of the NRA banquet.
It was similar to the Minnesota Deer Hunters Association banquet, the Ducks Unlimited gathering and the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation banquet that was held at the convention center a month or so prior to the NRA’s banquet.
Something was amiss as attendees began arriving to closed doors of the Minnesota Room, the site of the banquet.
Just minutes before the doors were supposed to open the buzz in the lobby was that the Breezy Point Police Department had told organizers that no game of chance could be performed that night. In fact, some were saying the event might be canceled.
As the minutes ticked down to the 5:30 p.m. start time, doors opened and announcement was made. Due to the city of Breezy Point’s ordinance, which outlaws gaming without a permit, the usual raffles for prizes would not be conducted. Rather, bean bags, tennis balls and a rubber ball would be used to test the skills of those wanting to participate for prizes, which included hunting rifles, shotguns and other firearms that had been purchased for the event.
In short, 18 guns were not won that evening by participants. Only a handful of much sought after hunting rifles and shotguns were “won” by those persons participating in the impromptu games of skill.
There was a tremendous letdown among event participants. Reaction was strong.
“Gambling permits are approved by city council and I attend all their meetings. I did not recall seeing a permit on any agenda,” said Chief of Police Kevin Merschman.
“I was previously a volunteer Chairman for North Crow Wing Ducks Unlimited and always obtained a permit.”
“I was informed of this incident of the Chief of Police Kevin Merschman’s actions prior to banquet and how he turned the event from a fundraiser into an indoor fishing show,” said James Erfurth of the Minnesota Freedom Council in an email to the Dispatch.
“I advised (Scott Lembke of the NRA) that a gambling permit was required and that one could not be obtained just a few hours before the event. I suggested he may be able to hold his event if he changed his program to games of skill. I then returned with a blank permit application so that he would be better informed for the future.
“I must admit I am very annoyed that the zealots have tried to make this into something it was not. This kind of fear mongering is exactly what gives the anti-gun people ammunition to ban guns,” Chief Merschman said.
Solutions? If the permit was not obtained this year, do so for next year. If this is not satisfactory to the NRA group, another solution is to change the venue.