A youth baseball team in Missouri is moving forward with raffling off an AR-15 just days after the same type of gun was used in the school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High in Florida, leading to 17 deaths.
Several critics voiced protestations to continuing the raffle given recent events, but the team’s coach, Levi Patterson, said that he intends to “turn it into a positive thing” after “getting the hate,” according to the Kansas City Star.
“I applaud them for standing up for what they believe in,” Patterson told the paper. “I just think they have feelings to this specific type of gun (that are) different than people around here do.”
The team, which hails from Neosho, Mo., is made up of children ages seven through nine. Patterson told the Star none of the players have been forced to sell the raffle tickets, and all of them are participating. The prize was determined prior to the shooting in Florida.
Though the team is not affiliated with the school district, the Star reports that the principal of South Elementary in Neosho announced the raffle on her Facebook page mere hours after the shooting in Florida.
The winner of the rifle will be required to pass a background check.