Some residents of an Oregon community are accusing a youth softball program of being tone-deaf for its decision to go ahead with plans to raffle off an AR-15-style assault weapon.
The Lady Dragons fast-pitch softball program in Dallas has divided the community with a decision to move forward with the fundraising plan in the wake of the mass shooting in a Florida school earlier this month, the Statesman Journal reported.
“We have nothing to do with it,” Michelle Johnstone, superintendent of the Dallas School District, told the newspaper, stressing that the district has no affiliation with the girls softball program which has teams for girls aged 10-and-younger through 16-and-younger.
The youth softball organization stated that, while it sympathized with current events, the raffle was “legal” and “well-regulated.”
“While we sympathize with current events and the climate surrounding them, this is a legal, well-regulated raffle, with tickets being sold to willing and able purchasers,” the organization said in a statement Monday to the Statesman Journal. “The winner of the raffle will have to pass all necessary background checks, the same as would be required of them to purchase the rifle.”
The raffle, scheduled to take place April 4 and with tickets selling for $25 each, has set members of the community at odds with each other, especially since the Valentine’s Day massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School where 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz murdered 17 people and injuring more than a dozen others others with an AR-15.
“They are in the political sphere right now by doing this,” Jim Moore, director of the Tom McCall Center for Policy Innovation at Pacific University in Forest Grove, said. “The post-Florida landscape … changes the political calculus.”
Although the raffle launched in January, well before the Parkland shooting, moving ahead with it in light of the tragedy in Florida could negatively impact the organization’s reputation, Moore noted.
But the organization maintained: “Raffling a high-ticket item, yes, even a firearm, has been done by similar sports organizations with great success.”
Dallas City Council President Micky Garus – a Lady Dragons board member – said he was banned from Facebook for 24 hours earlier this month for posting about the raffle.
“It’s really sad,” Garus wrote in the post on the page which appears to have been deleted.”We are trying to do something good for our community by providing funding opportunities for youth sports, and it resulted in a few people dictating to the majority what they deemed inappropriate.”
Garus noted that many tickets had already been sold for the raffle, which aimed to raise funds for equipment and field improvements as well as helping keep registration fees low for families.
A former Dallas High School teacher questioned the wisdom of raffling off a gun for a youth sport program, even if the firearm was only going to be used for target practice. “The impression it gives is distasteful,” Rebecca Penna told the Statesman Journal.
Jody Lewis, a resident who grew up in Dallas but now lives in Eugene, lamented the division the raffle has created in the community.
“It’s been incredibly polarizing,” she said.
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