A Missouri youth baseball team is moving ahead with a raffle of an AR-15 rifle despite criticism it received after a similar gun was used to kill 17 in a Florida high school.
Coach Levi Patterson told The Kansas City Star the fundraiser for the third-grade team in Neosho, Missouri, had been planned before last week’s shooting in Parkland, Florida.
He says his heart breaks for the shooting victims, but said gun raffles have been going on for years. He also said none of the children on the team would be forced to sell raffle tickets. Players selling tickets range in age from 7 to 9.
The weapon 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 has been criticized on Facebook, The Star reported. One commenter asked if he is 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, “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.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report