Why are Missouri third-graders raffling off an AR-15?

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Last week, we reported that a Kansas congressional candidate, Tyler Tannahill, was promoting his campaign by giving away an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle — and that he refused to cancel the giveaway after the same weapon was used to execute 17 people in a Florida high school the terrible Florida shooting.

Today, the national media has picked up yet another story about tone-deaf gun giveaways in the Midwest: a story from Missouri about a group of third graders selling raffle tickets for an AR-15 to support their baseball team.

I grew up in Kansas, and as I explained in my first report on Tannahill, it’s extremely common around here to see guns given away as promotional items. Still, the third-grade raffle story seems as confusing as it is ghoulish, so let’s dig into what’s happening here.

As the Kansas City Star originally reported, a father of one of the third-grade baseball players offered up the AR-15 as a raffle item to raise money for the kids. The team’s coach accepted.

The raffle began before the shooting in Florida — but despite criticism in the wake of the massacre, the team’s coach still has no interest in cancelling the raffle.

Levi Patterson, the coach of a 9-and-under baseball team in Neosho, Missouri, told The Star that while his heart breaks for the shooting victims, the idea was conceived before Parkland and 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 father who donated the weapon is the co-founder of Black Rain Ordnance Inc., a weapons purveyor in Neosho.

Coach Patterson added in his interview with the Star that he not only plans to continue with the fundraiser — he wants to “turn it into a positive thing” after getting angry Facebook posts from a “hate group” after the raffle was first reported.

It is not clear how this becomes a positive thing, but it is clear that Patterson cannot differentiate between what he perceives to be an internet hate-mob and the posts of actual human beings who believe that what he is doing is a terrible decision and sends a bizarre message to the children involved.

It’s easy to react poorly to viral social media outrage, and it’s hard to admit publicly that you’re oblivious to a situation when you are … so clearly oblivious to the situation. Patterson later told the Star that he was mistaken when he called his critics a hate group. Still, believing that everyone speaking out against you is a part of some coordinated group meant to attack your freedoms is a degree away from total paranoia.

“One of the people from the hate group turned in (a Facebook post about the raffle) for I don’t know what,” Patterson said. The post had shown a weapon next to the school logo, leading to fierce criticism from some until Facebook removed the post, according to Patterson.

“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,” Patterson wrote in a follow up Facebook post.

The raffle is not affiliated with the Neosho School District. It is also stipulated that the winner must pass a background check before receiving the gun.

A similar gun raffle for athletic benefit in Michigan has been cancelled, the Detroit Free Press reported. The raffle, which was to raise money for the football team of South Lyon High School, also featured an AR-15. This goes to show that not everyone who believe in gun ownership has to be such a huge failure when it comes to responding to national tragedy.

The perpetrator in Florida killed 17 people and injured at least 14 with an AR-15 in six minutes. The AR-15 is the “civilian” version of the M-16, and it’s so well-suited to causing huge casualties quickly that it has become the weapon of choice among mass shooters in recent years.

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