Selling raffle tickets to benefit an athletic team is not new, but having an AR-15 semiautomatic weapon as the prize is drawing heavy criticism in the wake of the shooting at a Florida high school that killed 17 and injured dozens, The Kansas City Star reported.
Third-graders in the southern Missouri city of Neosho were selling the tickets to benefit their traveling baseball team. Levi Patterson, the coach of a 9-and-under team in Neosho, said the idea was conceived before the Feb. 14 shooting at Parkland High School in South Florida, the Star reported.
The father of one of the players offered the weapon for the raffle.
Patterson told the Star that he considered changing the prize after the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, but decided to “turn it into a positive thing.”
The post, which has since been removed by Facebook, showed a weapon next to the mascot logo of South Elementary School in Neosho.
The raffle is not affiliated with the Neosho School District, and the winner must pass a background check before receiving the gun, the Star reported.
“Are you all tone deaf?” Dan Weaver wrote in a Facebook post on Patterson’s page. “AR15 kills seventeen so you raffle a gun for child sports? Lord, people wake the hell up. Justify all you want but you are wrong, period.”
Patterson answered the post, noting that “gun raffles have been going on for years. Evil has and will always exist. Our hearts break for those involved, and we do not take that lightly.”
The Star originally linked to the exchange, but the link is no longer active.
Patterson told the Star that he understands the criticism, which has been fierce.
“I applaud them for standing up for what they believe in. I just think they have feelings to this specific type of gun (that are) different than people around here do,” he said.
Tyler Tannahill of Kansas, who is running for Congress, was criticize this week for offering an AR-15 giveaway as part of his campaign, the Star reported.
Patterson stressed that the baseball players, who range in age from 7 to 9, are under no obligation to sell the raffle tickets.
“We appreciate your ‘concern’ but please understand, we are not, have not, and will not force one of our boys to sell raffle tickets for the Black Rain AR15 Spec 15, if they are uncomfortable doing so,” he wrote on Facebook.
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