A fine example of some very fine adults again making some very fine decisions.— A. W. (@AwBump) February 19, 2018
Lee Woodward, the principal of South Elementary School in Neosho, announced the raffle on her Facebook page
Read more here: https://t.co/bF1Le8lMfn
It is pretty standard behavior for a coach to organize 9-year-old children to sell raffle tickets to benefit their baseball team. However, in the case of Neosho, Missouri, the raffle item is something extremely sinister — an AR-15.
AR-15 is a semiautomatic, military-style assault rifle, notably known as the favored weapon of mass shooters throughout the country.
The firearm was never intended for civilian use, but this fact has never stopped gun-lovers from purchasing the weapon, nor stopped gun vendors from selling them to non-military personnel.
Levi Patterson, the coach of the community baseball team — which comprises 7- to 9-year-olds — is also of the same mind. The community needed to raise funds for the baseball team and Patterson thought nothing could be better than elementary school children selling raffle tickets for an AR-15. The weapon was donated as a prize by one of the team member’s father, who is a co-founder of the gun store, Black Rain Ordnance Inc. and seems very pro-NRA, judging by his Facebook page pitches.
The decision was made before the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Florida, which took the lives of 17 students and staff members. However, even the horrendously tragic incident did not put a damper on Patterson’s resolve to sell the firearm’s raffle tickets.
Patterson told the Kansas City Star he briefly thought of replacing the raffle item with another one but quickly changed his mind after he encountered criticism from “hate groups” on Facebook, which shamed the coach for his tone-deaf raffle idea.
Only in the US do 7 to 9 year olds sell raffle tickets for AR-15s.— Marc Silva (@msilvawpg) February 19, 2018
I've given up on trying to understand.
Children helping to give away AR15 rifles as a contest prize, even though they're increasingly likely to be killed in school by a psychopath with an AR15.https://t.co/6D9m7KKooo— Bob Cesca (@bobcesca_go) February 18, 2018
A children’s sport team for ages 9 and under in Missouri is selling raffle tickets and an AR-15 is the prize? Society has sunk to another new low. Coaches and parents are complicit in using children to promote violence, plain and simple. Shameful!— PagodaGirl (@dorytwo) February 19, 2018
What kind of human garbage would allow this to take place ??— Latina 4 Justice???? (@impeach_45NOW) February 19, 2018
Baseball coach, Levi Patterson said Missouri third-graders will continue to sell AR-15 raffle tickets after Florida students are gunned down with similar weapon. https://t.co/e8h8FbHDME
It's called Institutionalized Ignorance...start them young, start them early! Raffle Tickets for an AR-15? Here, you can buy Raffle Tickets & a box of Chrispy Creme Donuts! If the kids get shot? These Morons will protest & stop eating Donuts! @LLaws2 @matbo2 @MsRock4Ever @artfudd— Richard Schatten (@RFSchatten) February 18, 2018
After the first barrage, Patterson became even more determined to turn the AR-15 raffle “into a positive thing.”
He also wrote in response, “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 raffle is not associated with the Neosho School District and the winner must pass a background check to obtain the rifle.
Patterson later admitted he did not know if the comments were actually from “hate groups," as he dubbed them and in an attempt at damage control said, “I applaud them for standing up for what they believe in. I just think they have feelings to this specific type of gun (that are) different than people around here do.”
He also insisted AR-15 — a rifle that can fire off 45 rounds of ammo in one minute and is meant to be used in a battlefield — is not a “killing machine.”
Patterson said the 7- to 9-year-old children on his team are not “forced” to sell the raffle tickets — as if such young children could have any concept of the devastation the weapon can cause, particularly when a trusted coach is asking them to do so.
“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 on Facebook.
Lee Woodward, the principal of South Elementary School in Neosho, announced the raffle on Facebook, encouraging prospective buyers to support the “9u Neosho baseball players, coaches, and parents.” The post was made scant hours after the Florida school shooting.
The principal has not responded to calls.
Last week, Kansas Republican Tyler Tannahill and Missouri Senate candidate Austin Peterson have both faced backlash for offering an AR-15 to bring focus to their campaigns.
Another AR-15 raffle, this one for a football team of South Lyon High School, Michigan, was canceled after the massacre on Feb. 14.
Banner/Thumbnail credit: Reuters/Joshua Lott/Files