Youth baseball team moves forward with AR-15 raffle despite criticism

NEOSHO, Mo. — 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.

Meanwhile, a Republican running for a Maryland legislative seat raffled off an AR-15 assault weapon at a Saturday night fundraiser, only days after the same type of weapon was used to kill 17 people at a Florida high school.

The Baltimore Sun reported that about 15 people held a peaceful vigil outside, reading off the names of the 17 victims, as well as others killed in mass shootings, before the fundraiser for sheriff’s deputy Aaron Penman.

The Facebook posting for Penman’s event said gun winners would have to complete background checks.

Democrat Allison Berkowitz, also running to represent House District 7, took a turn sharing the stories of shooting victims over a megaphone. She said “we just want things to be safer for all of our children.”