It might come as a shock to all you foreign readers out there, and many of you on the coasts, but here in America, gun raffles are just part of the scenery. As the BBC says, “Gun sweepstakes — costing as little as $5 per ticket — are a part of life in some parts of the US, with the National Rifle Association having held raffles for decades.”
Since the Valentine’s Day massacre of 17 Florida schoolchildren and teachers with an AR-15 semi-automatic weapon, the oft-raffled weapon of choice, these sweepstakes faced increased scrutiny from community sick of gun violence.
Especially violence involving our kids.
Especially when the kids are the ones doing the raffling.
A 9-and-under — which means ages 7 to 9 — baseball team in Neosho, Missouri was selling tickets to win an AR-15 when the Florida shooting happened, says The Kansas City Star. It was your run-of-the-mill fundraising effort; one of the players’ dads, who owns a local gun shop, donated the rifle for raffle. As the sheriff of Charlotte, North Carolina (who canceled his AR-15 raffle, by the way) has said, according to the BBC, these raffles are effective fundraisers.
But after Florida, perhaps some soul-searching might be in order. A pause. A moment of reflection about semi-automatic firearms, and if not their place in society, then perhaps their place with regard to children.
But this is America, baby. The country where the school principal of South Elementary School in Neosho announced the raffle on her Facebook page, just hours after the Parkland shooting, encouraging purchases to support the “9U Neosho baseball players, coaches, and parents.”
Coach Levi Patterson says the raffle idea was conceived prior to the shooting. After Florida, he briefly considered canceling. But he told The Kansas City Star that he “decided to ‘turn it into a positive thing’ after ‘getting the hate.’” By which we can only assume people called and expressed concern that he was using children to raffle off a weapon of mass murder, calling him out on an act both inappropriate and disrespectful.
In the original Kansas City Star article, Patterson constantly refers to critics as “a hate group,” something he’s forced to amend and retract, stating: “I applaud them for standing up for what they believe in,” he said. “I just think they have feelings to this specific type of gun (that are) different than people around here do,” he said. When accused on Twitter of being wrong, Patterson justified, on a now-private tweet, “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.”
Proving that America is still clinging hard to guns and religion, Patterson says that since the Florida shooting, donations have poured in, because there’s no better way to make a point about the deaths of schoolchildren then to throw money at pro-gun causes. People as far away as Colorado, he says, have offered to buy tickets on Facebook.
But rest assured, America. No kids, he says, will be forced to sell tickets. “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 told Facebook, reports the Star.
But Patterson isn’t the only tone-deaf American gun lover refusing to cancel his beloved raffle in the wake of one of the worst mass shootings in the country’s history. Republican Congressman Tyler Tannahill of Kansas is holding an AR-15 giveaway, refuses to cancel it, and sort of got his ass handed to him recently over the matter. A CNN anchorman pointed out that while Tannahill is requiring a background check for the winner, his state does not require background checks for person-to-person gun transfers, so said winner could just legally hand the AR-15 to whoever the fuck he wants.
Tannahill told CNN, “We could take the typical Republican response, ‘Let’s hide in our holes, let’s say thoughts and prayers’ and move on. Or, we could get in front of this issue, and have a meaningful discussion and dialogue to say we do have a problem.”
That meaningful dialogue includes raffling off a gun, apparently.
But a few brave souls out there deserve our praise. The Detroit Free Press reports that boosters in South Lyon have canceled a game dinner and raffle that was set to include an AR-15. “Due to the recent tragic events earlier this week, the South Lyon Football Booster Organization has decided to cancel their second annual Wild Game Dinner. The sensitivity of the issue coupled with the untimely tragedy has led to the decision,” the team’s website said.
Of course, someone at the end of the article had to whine about how our rights shouldn’t be controlled by the government. Our rights being the ability to own a semi-automatic weapon that, The Detroit Free Press says, can rip through a steel helmet at 500 feet away. Not to mention what it can do, and has done, to the bodies of our schoolchildren. A group of schoolchildren is a target, says Kathy Fish in her poem “Collective Nouns for Humans in the Wild.” A target, mostly, with an AR-15.
You can raffle off anything to raise money for our schools—vacations, fancy dinners, whatever. Let’s keep the deadly weaponry out of it, especially during a time when we are literally fighting for our kids’ (and teachers’) lives.