Missouri youth baseball team holds AR-15 raffle after Parkland shooting

A Missouri youth baseball team is raffling off an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle. (Facebook via the Kansas City Star)

At best, this shows an astonishing lack of awareness.

At worst, it’s a slap in the face to the families, friends and classmates of every victim of an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle that reinforces to third-graders the mass shooting weapon’s convenient availability.

According to the Kansas City Star, a traveling youth baseball team in Missouri has continued to sell raffle tickets for an AR-15 despite another 17 victims being gunned down by one in last week’s shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. The father of one player, a co-founder of weapons dealer Black Rain Ordnance in Neosho, Mo., reportedly provided the gun for a fundraiser.

The AR-15 raffle was conceived prior to the latest school shooting, the 9-and-under baseball team’s coach, Levi Patterson, told the newspaper, but he plans to continue the fundraiser in the face of heavy criticism. Patterson even went so far as to call those opposing the concept a “hate group,” before retracting that statement and adding, “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.”

In addition to the Parkland tragedy, the AR-15 was the weapon used in mass shootings at a movie theater in Aurora, Colo., Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., a center for people with developmental disabilities in San Bernardino, Calif., a nightclub in Orlando and a concert in Las Vegas, among others. Children under 18 can purchase an AR-15 in Missouri with parental consent.

On its website, Black Rain Ordnance describes itself as “a precision firearms manufacturer specializing in the modern sporting rifle design.” The company proudly sells semi-automatic weapons with the tagline, “No Frills All Function,” along with silencers that include the disclaimer, “YES, THEY’RE LEGAL.”

Patterson told the Kansas City Star that he “will not force one of our boys (ages 7 to 9) to sell raffle tickets” for the rifle “if they are uncomfortable doing so.” While the school district is not affiliated with the raffle, Neosho’s South Elementary School principal Lee Woodward reportedly posted the contest to her Facebook page hours after the Parkland shooting and urged followers to support the team.

While a number of critics have shared their distaste for the raffle on social media, Patterson told the Kansas City Star that supporters from around the country have also reached out to purchase tickets.

Neosho Mayor Ben Baker, reportedly a friend of the coach, told Missouri’s KZRG news radio:

“The way that this has turned out, it’s just unfortunate. It really troubles me that they (people) will attack a good man and his family to the point where … they literally feel unsafe in public. But the left, how they operate in the name of compassion, they’re perfectly fine with dragging a good man through the mud and trying to destroy his reputation in the community.”

And you wonder why outlawing the AR-15, a seemingly obvious first step toward sensible gun control in response to the mass shooting epidemic, is so difficult in this country. That anybody would assign third-graders to raffle one off goes so far beyond any sound line of reasoning it’s incomprehensible.

The Missouri baseball coach isn’t the only one on this train, either. A Detroit area high school football team canceled an AR-15 raffle following the Parkland shooting. Republican congressional candidate Tyler Tannahill promoted an “AR-15 Giveaway” to benefit his campaign in Kansas. And a Sacramento suburban fire department raffled off an AR-15 while its flag was still at half mast for Parkland victims.

Meanwhile, students who survived the most recent mass shooting in Florida plan to march on Washington on March 24 to advocate gun control. At least someone is showing some awareness here.

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Ben Rohrbach is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at rohrbach_ben@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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