Youth organization’s decision to raffle off assault rifle is alarming

When I was playing baseball decades ago, I remember going door to door in my neighborhood selling magazine subscriptions to raise money for our Little League team. When our child was at Brownies, we helped sell boxes and boxes of Thin Mints and Tagalongs to relatives, friends and colleagues. Auctions, fundraising dinners, car washes, bake sales – there are hundreds of creative ways to raise money for nonprofits, churches, and after-school programs.

Now, there’s a new big item that some groups are bringing into play: a semi-automatic rifle.

The East Henderson Youth Football and Cheer organization (EHYFC) is selling raffle tickets for the chance to own an FN-15 Patrol Rifle. Reviews of this rifle are free. According to a Pew Pew Tactical article “Everything about the FN 15 lives up to what you would expect. The fit and finish is exceptional, the parts work perfectly and even the branding is subtle but sexy.

“Sexy” is a typical marketing ploy used by advertisers to sell everything from cars to cigarettes. As someone who knows what it feels like to be shot at close range, I find nothing sexy about an AR-15 style rifle. It was the weapon of choice in 11 of the most gruesome and deadly mass shootings of the past 10 years, including the 20 young school children and six educators killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut; 17 students were killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, and 19 students and two teachers were shot at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas last spring.

EHYFC serves children aged 5 to 12 and, according to its Facebook page, “helps our youngsters develop their character, sportsmanship and self-confidence”. These are laudable goals and organizations like EHYFC need funds for facilities, uniforms and equipment. Yet I find it highly misguided for young children and their parents to put a folder full of $5 raffle tickets for a comparable weapon used last May in the third deadliest school shooting in history. American. If this had happened in Hendersonville, and not Uvalde, would the organizers of this raffle have put the FN-15 carbine as the prize, or would the country have become numb to the increasing daily body count due to violence? army.

There is nothing illegal about this raffle and EHYFC is not affiliated with Henderson County Public Schools (HCPS). As the organizers point out, the winner of the raffle will need to pass a background check in order to claim the prize at the organization’s Homecoming Game event on October 1.

Unfortunately, the draw still has to take place on school grounds at an HCPS football stadium. HCPS would do well to reevaluate its facility use agreements to ensure that outside organizations are no longer permitted to hold events on school grounds advertising age-inappropriate substances and materials such as alcohol, tobacco and firearms. Firearms are not permitted on school grounds. Why should raffles on school grounds be allowed, especially when guns are the leading cause of death among children?

In June, a Rutherford County high school wrestling team held a raffle for an AR-15 style pistol. Organizers suspended the fundraiser after receiving several complaints citing security concerns. Despite calls to suspend the Henderson County raffle, EHYFC has not backed down. In fact, the story was picked up by FOX, and EHYFC is reaping the rewards of online raffle sales by gun enthusiasts nationwide.

I’m glad the kids are getting the gear they need, but I’m concerned about the glorification and normalization of the draw of a weapon designed for one main purpose: to kill as many people in as little time as possible.

EHYFC has successfully promoted an AR-15 raffle for three consecutive years. Last year, the winner returned home with an Anderson Manufacturing AR-15, or as it was tastelessly promoted on his Facebook page, “a cordless drill.” I guess someone had a good laugh when they found that sentence. I wonder if that person would feel the same way if it was their terrified child whose head was nearly decapitated by an AR-15 weapon while hiding in her classroom last spring in Uvalde.

While I fully support the Youth Sports and Program’s stated mission to provide “a structured, safe and secure environment for children to learn life skills”, I do not endorse children, parents and organizations to nonprofit that sells raffle tickets for a weapon that has shattered the safety, security, and sanity of thousands of students and families in communities across the country. I have the impression that we draw lots of a little of our humanity.

John Owens is co-lead of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in western North Carolina. He was shot and nearly killed in 2005 and suffered a spinal cord injury.