A Missouri junior baseball team is moving ahead with a raffle of an AR-15 rifle despite criticism 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 seven to nine.
Mr Patterson told Kansas City Star he considered finding a different raffle item but ultimately decided to “turn it into a positive thing” after “getting the hate”.
“One of the people from the hate group turned in [a Facebook post about the raffle] for I don’t know what,” he said.
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 gun show went on as scheduled over the weekend, a short drive from the school. Many assault weapons were on display for customers, some of whom brought their children.
Jorge Fernandez, the spokesman for Florida Gun Shows, shared his “deepest condolences to the persons who have been involved in this terrible tragedy” but said the show “would just be cost prohibitive to cancel”.