West Virginia is joining the ranks of states rolling out a lottery to those who’ve been vaccinated against COVID-19, hoping that the offer of cash and prizes will inch up the vaccination rate in the state. At the moment, about 34% of residents have been fully vaccinated, which is one of the lower rates in the country, but Gov. Jim Justice is betting that the new lottery, which begins on Father’s Day and will run through the summer, will entice some reluctant residents to get stuck.
Prizes up for grabs in the June 20 drawing include five custom hunting rifles, five custom hunting shotguns, two tricked-out pickup trucks and five lifetime hunting and fishing permits, said Justice, whose PowerPoint pitch included a photo of his bird dog, Jazz.
The Father’s Day drawing also includes two four-year scholarships to any West Virginia educational institution — for winners between the ages of 12 and 25 — as well as a $1 million grand prize, Justice said.
The drawing is open to West Virginians who received at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine dating back to the winter, meaning early adopters won’t be left out in the cold.
If the chance to win a custom rifle or shotgun isn’t enough, Justice announced that the state is also offering a $1-million grand prize, which is more than enough to purchase a custom-made firearm and a tricked-out truck.
I joked on Twitter that if the state really wants to goose the vaccination rate, they should offer up a couple of cases of 9mm or .223, but that’s probably harder to find than a gunsmith willing to make a rifle or shotgun for lottery winners.
While only 34% of the state is fully vaccinated, about 51% of residents have received at least one dose of either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine, and about 75% of residents over the age of 50 have been fully vaccinated, which is actually better than many of its neighbors. That raises the question of whether a vaccine lottery is actually necessary, but given the fact that Ohio’s vaccine lottery has led to an increase in vaccination rates, it’s not surprising that neighboring West Virginia is following suit.
It’s also not much of a surprise that West Virginia is offering up some custom firearms, given its reputation as one of the most Second Amendment-friendly states around. West Virginia is a Constitutional Carry state, and lawmakers approved a measure this year repealing the sales tax on firearms and ammunition as well as offering huge tax incentives to companies in the firearms industry relocating to the state.
The sad thing is that a similar gun giveaway would also provide a boost to vaccination efforts in nearby states like Virginia and Pennsylvania, but there’s absolutely no way that the Democratic governors in charge of those states would ever do anything to promote gun ownership, even if led to a rise in vaccination rates in rural areas. Heck, Gov. Tom Wolf tried to shut down gun shops in Pennsylvania in the early days of the COVID pandemic, while Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam was successfully sued after he declared gun ranges were not essential businesses and ordered them closed. They’re not about to follow West Virginia’s lead here.
On the other hand, we could see other red states follow suit, particularly if West Virginia does see a substantial boost in their vaccination rates. I still think a pallet of ammo would be an even better incentive, but a free custom-made firearm is nothing to sneeze at (no pun intended).