Gun violence in the US

Missouri youth baseball team raffles AR-15 rifle similar to the one used in Florida high school shooting

PUBLISHED : Monday, 19 February, 2018, 3:20am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 26 June, 2018, 3:28am

A Missouri youth baseball team is set to raffle an AR-15 – similar to the one allegedly used by 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz to kill 17 in a Parkland, Florida high school on Wednesday – despite coming under online criticism.

Coach Levi Patterson told the Kansas City Star he’d planned the fundraiser, for his team of seven-to-nine-year-olds in Neosho, Missouri, before last week’s shooting at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

Despite complaints that the raffle was insensitive, Patterson said he was going to “turn it into a positive thing” after “getting the hate.”

One furious opponent, Dan Weaver, complained on a now-deleted post on Patterson’s Facebook page that the raffle was “tone deaf”.

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“AR15 kills 17 so you raffle a gun for child sports?” he wrote, according to the Star. “Lord, people wake the hell up. Justify all you want but you are wrong, period.”

Initially calling the critics a “hate group” – a phrase he subsequently backed away from – Patterson said that the online furore had led to people as far away as Colorado, some 725 miles away, offering to buy tickets.

However, he denied that he was using the raffle to make a political statement, saying he was just putting the gun up because it was supplied by a local gun shop owner whose child is on the team. 

“Gun raffles have been going on for years,” Patterson said. “Evil has and will always exist. Our hearts break for those involved, and we do not take that lightly.”

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He also said that he was not angry about the people who voiced their opposition to the raffle.

“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.

Patterson said none of the children on the team – who are aged seven to nine – would be forced to sell raffle tickets, and that the winner must pass a background check.