Candidates in Kansas and Maryland have drawn criticism for refusing to nix their AR-15 raffles after the Parkland school shooting last week. Now, another (but much younger) group is in the spotlight. The Kansas City Star reports members of a third-grade baseball team in Neosho, Mo., are trying to raise money by selling raffle tickets for the same weapon used in the Florida shooting, and even though coach Levi Patterson mulled replacing the AR-15 with another prize item after Parkland, he decided against it. He said after "getting the hate"—he originally said someone from a "hate group" put a post up on Facebook showing an AR-15 next to the logo of Parkland's Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School—he hoped to make the raffle "a positive thing." Reaction to the raffle for the gun, which was donated by a player's dad, has been mixed.
Patterson says he's been receiving offers to buy tickets from all around the country, but some online are calling the raffle "tone deaf" considering what just happened in Parkland. "AR15 kills seventeen so you raffle a gun for child sports? Lord, people wake the hell up," one commenter posted on Patterson's Facebook page. Patterson says the winner of the gun will have to pass a background check, none of the boys are being forced to sell tickets, and he wasn't trying to make a political statement with the gun—the player's dad had simply offered it, and he accepted. He has changed his tune on the "hate group" he mentioned earlier, now telling the Star, "I applaud them for standing up for what they believe in," but adding that those critics "have feelings to this specific type of gun [that are] different than people around here do." (More AR-15 rifle stories.)