A group of third graders in Missouri are raffling off an AR-15 rifle to help support their traveling baseball team, and there is no intent to halt the fundraising efforts in light of the recent school shooting in Florida during which the shooter used that very weapon to kill 17 people.
Levi Patterson, the coach of a 9-and-under baseball team in Neosho, Mo., told The Star the idea was conceived before the shooting in Parkland, Fla.
A father of one of the players — who co-founded Black Rain Ordnance Inc., a weapons purveyor in Neosho — offered the weapon for the raffle.
Though Patterson initially considered swapping the gun for a different item to raffle, he decided to stick with the AR-15 after "getting the hate" in hopes that he could "turn it into a positive thing".
“One of the people from the hate group turned in (a Facebook post about the raffle) for I don’t know what,” Patterson said. The post had shown a weapon next to the school logo, leading to fierce criticism by some until Facebook removed the post, according to Patterson.
After this story was published, Patterson said he mistakenly said the critics were part of a hate group. He said he does not view them as a hate group but as a concerned group that has “every right to stand up for what they believe in.”
Patterson indicated in a social media comment that none of the boys are required to sell raffle tickets and anyone who is uncomfortable may abstain from participating.
The raffle is not affiliated with the school district, but it was promoted after the Florida shooting by the boys' elementary school principal:
Lee Woodward, the principal of South Elementary School in Neosho, announced the raffle on her Facebook page and encouraged purchases to support the “9u Neosho baseball players, coaches, and parents.” The post was made hours after the Florida shooting.