Just four days after a Florida school shooting was committed by the same weapon, Neosho, Missouri 7-9 year olds are going door to door selling raffle tickets for AR-15s.
The Kansas City Star reports the sales are part of a fundraiser supporting a 9-and-under traveling baseball team.
The team’s coach, Levi Patterson, told the Star the idea of the raffle occurred before the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Parkland, Florida, which left 17 people dead. The father of one of the team’s players was associated with a Neosho gun manufacturing company and offered the rifle to use in the raffle.
Even though Neosho, which is in the southwestern corner of Missouri, is steeped in the gun culture, the raffle quickly came under fire from community members who did not like the idea of children selling tickets for an AR-15 and because of the use of the logo of the Neosho School District, a wildcat, as part of the advertising. The school’s logo has not been copyrighted.
While Board of Education President Steven Douglas said the district was not associated with the raffle in any way, the principal at South Elementary School in Neosho, Lee Woodward, encouraged parents to buy raffle tickets for the weapon, the Star reported, in a post that was made after the Florida shooting. That post no longer appears to be on the public portion of Woodward’s Facebook page.
In social media postings, Patterson appears to be offended that anyone would question his decision to have the children selling raffle tickets for AR-15s, sending a message to anyone who was concerned and making sure that “concerned” was placed in quotation marks.
He noted that he was not forcing any of the children to sell the tickets and that whoever won the rifle would have to be 18 years of age or older, have a valid photo ID and pass a background check.
Patterson also said that guns were not responsible for the Florida shooting.
“A complete moral decay of our society is what caused those shootings.. not the weapon involved;.. and it is VERY sad”
Patterson said the fundraiser was already underway long before detractors decided to “link our raffle with the horrible massacre in Florida.”
Initially in his interview with the Kansas City Star, Patterson labeled those who were against his decision to have children selling AR-15 raffle tickets as part of “a hate group,” but he walked that back in a later statement to the newspaper.
After the publication of the Star article, social media comments attacked the decision to have the raffle and to continue with it following the Florida school shooting.