Missouri children sell tickets to win an AR-15 assault-style rifle in wake of Florida shooting

Another item could have chosen for the raffle but the coach says he kept it after 'getting all the hate'

Mythili Sampathkumar
New York
Monday 19 February 2018 17:38
Semi-automatic AR-15's are for sale at Good Guys Guns & Range on 15 February 2018 in Orem, Utah.
Semi-automatic AR-15's are for sale at Good Guys Guns & Range on 15 February 2018 in Orem, Utah.

Children in Missouri are selling raffle tickets for an assault rifle despite 17 people being killed by the weapon in the Parkland, Florida school shooting just last week.

The Neosho, Missouri youth are going to use the profits to support their baseball team.

Levi Patterson, who coaches the seven- to nine-year-old kids, told the Kansas City Star the fundraiser was planned before Nikolas Cruz allegedly used an AR-15 assault rifle to gun down 14 students and three adults at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on 14 February.

Mr Patterson said that though he feels for the Florida community, gun raffles have been taking place for several years.

The state recently passed a law that does not require a permit to carry a concealed weapon as well and those with concealed carry permits are exempted from rules in districts within the state that prohibit openly carrying a firearm.

The Facebook post, which showed the school logo and a picture of the weapon next to it, for the raffle had been bombarded with criticisms before he deleted it.

One user had written: "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.”

The coach had responded by saying that none of the boys on the team were being forced to sell tickets to win the "Black Rain AR15 Spec 15, if they are uncomfortable doing so."

"Gun raffles have been going on for years. Evil has and will always exist. Our hearts break for those involved [in the Florida shooting], and we do not take that lightly,” he had written.

Florida shooting suspect Nikolas Cruz appears in court the day after mass shooting

The father of one of the boys, a co-owner of a local gun store, had offered the weapon as a raffle item and the winner would have to pass a background check in order to take possession of it.

Mr Patterson could have chosen a different item for the fundraiser after the mass school shooting but decided to "turn into a positive thing" after "getting all the hate" for the original idea.

At least one user had reported the post to Facebook for "I don't know what," he said. He hit out at critics for being part of a "hate group," a statement he later retracted.

He later said the people with negative responses to the raffle have "every right" to say that.

“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 told the newspaper.

Mr Patterson said that since the story made headlines, donations and offers to buy tickets have come in from all over the state and even as far as Colorado.

But it was not just the team coach who supported the raffle item; South Elementary School Principal Lee Woodward went as far as promoting it on her Facebook page just hours after the Florida shooting.

Ms Woodward responded via a statement to The Independent which said that she had shared information on the raffle on Facebook because her son is on the baseball team.

"I am truly sorry to any who were offended or concerned by the team's raffle. It was never my intention to offend anyone but to simply support my son and his teammates," she said.

The principal indicated her family would not be participating in the raffle after receiving "death threats and other violence...from across the nation."

The Neosho School District confirmed that the baseball team is not associated with the school nor was the raffle sanction by the district.

It also said in the statement sent to The Independent that Mr Patterson is not an employee of the school district.

"The use of our logo on the raffle flyer was not approved but we do not believe it was an action done in ill will," the school district official wrote, adding that the logo was removed once the community league team was made aware of the rules.

Many school districts in suburban areas of the country have children go through active shooter drills to prepare them for the worst-case scenario, but it is still unclear if the Neosho school district has done so or plans to do so in light of the latest mass school shooting.

Mr Cruz is currently being held without bail as the community mourns the loss of so many students and teachers, the youngest among them just 14 years old.

Several students at Stoneman Douglas High School have been passionate and vocal advocates for Congressional gun control reform in the days following the shooting, often speaking on camera and responding directly to US President Donald Trump on Twitter.

People also protested and called for an assault weapons ban in front of the Broward County Federal Courthouse just days after the shooting.

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