Elementary school students are still selling raffle tickets for a AR-15 semi-automatic rifle, just days after the same weapon was used to kill 17 people at a Florida high school. The boys, ages 7 to 9, were raising money for their baseball team in Missouri, according to a new St. Louis Post-Dispatch report.
Team coach Levi Patterson told the outlet the raffle was designed before Wednesday’s mass shooting. A father of one of the kids co-founded a firearm company, and provided the weapon for the team’s use. Patterson said he wasn’t trying to make a political statement by offering the AR-15. He was just offering what had been provided..
At first, he thought about getting a new item for the raffle, but choose to “turn it into a positive thing” after receiving “hate” online.
“One of the people from the hate group turned in [a Facebook post about the raffle] for I don’t know what,” Patterson said. This post depicted a weapon next to a school logo, and Facebook took it down after criticism, Patterson said. He clarified after initial publication of that article that he didn’t mean to say the critics were part of a “hate group.” They were just people were different opinions.
“I applaud them for standing up for what they believe in,” he said. “I just think they have feelings to this specific type of gun different than people around here do.” In a reported Facebook message on Wednesday, Patterson insisted that they would not force any of the boys to sell raffle tickets if the kids “are uncomfortable doing so.” He said all his players are selling.
Nikolas Cruz, 19, was arrested for the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. He killed 17 people using an AR-15 semiautomatic rifle, according to the arrest report from the Broward County Sheriff’s Office.
[2013 picture of an AR-15 unrelated to the raffle via Joe Raedle/Getty Images]