Third-graders are causing a stir in Missouri after they announced they are selling raffle tickets for an AR-15 to benefit their traveling baseball team. The controversy stems from the fact that the same type of rifle was used earlier this week to kill 17 students and teachers at a Florida high school.
The coach of the 9-and-under baseball team is Levi Patterson and he says the idea was already set in motion before the Florida high school shooting. A father of one of the players co-founded a weapons distributor called Black Rain Ordnance Inc. and they are providing the rifle for the raffle.
Patterson said he is considering finding another item to raffle in place of the rifle after the mass shooting Wednesday at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. He ultimately decided he would "turn it into a positive thing" after "getting the hate." Patterson went on to say, "One of the people from the hate group turned in (a Facebook post about the raffle) for I don’t know what."
A post on Facebook led to criticism that showed the rifle with the school logo next to it and Facebook removed it. Patterson says he feels the hate group condemning the raffle does not have the view that the people of his community have. He later clarified that he does not view the critics as a hate group but rather as a concerned group that has "every right to stand up for what they believe in."
"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," Patterson said. Donations have been pouring in as the criticism has increased and people as far away as Colorado offered to buy tickets.
One of the vocal critics on Facebook is a man named Dan Weaver and he said, "Are you all tone deaf? 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 responded to Weaver saying, "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."
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