Youth baseball team to hold AR-15 raffle despite outcry

AR-15 purchase

NEOSHO, Mo. -- A Missouri youth baseball team is moving ahead with a raffle of an AR-15 rifle despite criticism it received after 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 7 to 9.

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, there are other gun raffles across the country facing criticism as well. According to CBS affiliate KMOV-TV, that includes raffles hosted by two candidates.

Austin Petersen is hoping to get the Republican nomination for Senate in Missouri this August. His campaign posted an AR-15 giveaway on its website back in September. He told KMOV-TV that the gun was chosen because it was provided by a donor.

"If somebody gave us a 1911 sidearm, we would have given that away," Petersen said.

He also said he "feels for the victims" in Florida but added "there isn't any tragedy that justifies taking away the rights of innocent people."

Republican Tyler Tannahill of Kansas launched and "AR-15 Giveaway" on his Facebook page the day before the Florida school shooting. While the Facebook post was taken down, the raffle is still available on his campaign website.