As the national debate rages about how to respond to last week’s school shooting in Florida, several organizations, a youth baseball team and a local Christian school are caught in the middle of the uproar caused by previously planned raffles to sell the model of firearm used in a string of recent mass shootings.
The Classical Christian Academy, a small private school in Post Falls, posted on its Facebook page on Jan. 30 that it was raffling off an AR-15 semiautomatic rifle for $50 a chance. The advertisement says the gun is an $1,800 value and includes a precision Noveske barrel and other custom parts.
The raffle, according to a school spokeswoman, was organized by parents. As of Tuesday, the school plans to go ahead with the raffle on March 10 despite the recent furor over the gun caused by the killing of 17 people on Feb. 14 at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.
However, the gun jammed and witnesses said Caleb Sharpe, 16, then used a handgun to kill student Sam Strahan and injure three girls.
Classical Christian Academy spokeswoman Shannon Garcia said she would forward questions regarding the raffle to the school’s board of trustees. Garcia later said the trustees “do not have a comment … Thanks for reaching out.”
Some of the same concerns regarding AR-15 raffles were raised earlier this week when a third-grade baseball team in Neosho, Missouri, offered to raffle an AR-15.
Coach Levi Patterson told the Kansas City Star that the fundraiser for his team made up of third-graders had been planned before last week’s shooting in Florida.
Patterson responded to a critic of the raffle by writing 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.”
He also told the Star that he was not making a political statement with the raffle item.
On Wednesday, Patterson took to Facebook to fire back at the “concerned group” critical of the raffle. Players selling tickets range in age from 7 to 9.
“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.
The weapon is the same type used in 2012 to kill 20 students and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. It was offered by a player’s father who is a co-founder of a local gun store. The winner must pass a background check, Patterson said.
On Saturday, two Cameron Park, California, residents walked out of a raffle benefiting a firefighter support group after finding an AR-15 as one of the prizes.
Allison Merrill told the San Francisco Chronicle that she attended the annual crab feed Saturday for the Cameron Park Firefighter Association when she saw the firearm in a room full of items for the raffle. She walked out in protest 30 minutes into the event.
“These are our first responders responding to these types of events – these shootings, and they should be concerned with putting one of those types of weapons out in our community and instead it was being given out as a prize,” Merrill said.
Nancy Lugo, another resident, also walked out of the event.
“It’s the timing of seeing that weapon after reeling in the grief with the rest of the country of the death of the children in Florida,” Lugo said.
The guns have also sparked controversy for some candidates.
Republican congressional candidate Tyler Tannahill of Leaveanworth, Kansas, posted an “AR-15 Giveaway” on his Facebook page the day before the shooting in Parkland, Florida. While the post was taken down, the raffle is still available at Tannahill’s campaign website.
“No individual is for school shootings. It’s heartbreaking … being a parent, our thoughts on that, for me personally, I am a strong believer in the Second Amendment,” Tannahill said in an interview with the Kansas City Star. “I think we need to have a discussion of what can be done and throwing out comments of displeasure isn’t going to solve it.”
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