Third graders in a Missouri youth baseball team will still raffle an AR-15 rifle despite backlash after a similar gun was used to kill 17 people in Florida.
Levi Patterson, the baseball team coach, told the Kansas City Star the fundraiser for the team in Neosho, Missouri, was planned before last week's shooting in Parkland, Florida.
The team is comprised of children ages seven to nine, but none of them will be forced to sell raffle tickets. The weapon was supplied by a gun shop owner whose child is on the team.
Patterson said he considered finding a different rifle after the school shooting in Florida, but he ultimately decided to go ahead with the AR-15 to turn it into a 'positive thing' as it is raising funds to help the team travel to games.
'Gun raffles have been going on for years,' Patterson said. 'Evil has and will always exist. Our hearts break for those involved, and we do not take that lightly.'
Levi Paterson (left) said his baseball team will continue the raffle despite backlash. He said he would turn the hate into a 'positive thing'. Paterson is pictured with his wife
A youth baseball team is selling raffle tickets for an AR-15 - the same gun Nikolas Cruz used in Parkland, Florida, to kill 17 people. The raffle received backlash after the shooting, but Levi Paterson, the team's coach, said he wasn't going to cancel it
Paterson posted this message on Facebook after he received backlash for doing the raffle
One person on Twitter thought the raffle was 'disgraceful'. The youth baseball team is comprised of children ages seven to nine. The rifle was donated by a parent
The baseball team is selling the tickets for $5 each and the winner will be announced on March 17.
Patterson received hate online for his decision to continue with the raffle after someone posted the information on Facebook.
This photo provided by the Broward County Jail shows Nikolas Cruz, the teen suspected of killing 17 and injuring more than a dozen in a school shooting on Wednesday in Florida
He told the Kansas City Star: 'I applaud them for standing up for what they believe in. I just think they have feelings to this specific type of gun (that are) different than people around here do.'
Paterson also posted on Facebook information about why the raffle would continue.
He explained the money would go towards the 11 children when the traveled for away games. Also, that whoever gets the gun has to be 18 years or older.
The raffle received hate following the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Parkland, Florida, when 17 people were killed with an AR-15.
Nikolas Cruz, 19, allegedly walked into Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Wednesday and killed 17 people with the rifle, according to reports released by authorities.
He now faces 17 counts of premeditated murder and is being held without bail at Broward County jail in Florida.
Since the shooting, people in Florida and across the nation have been more vocal about the need for gun regulations, specifically with AR-15s.
An AR-15 is a popular semi-automatic rifle that some use for hunting. But it has also been involved in many mass shooting in recent years.
Past shooters used the weapon to kill 58 people at a concert in Las Vegas, 49 people at a club in Orlando, and 26 people in an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut.
Another person supported the decision for the raffle to continue. They thought it would help teach the children about gun responsibility
Crowds gathered at a courthouse on Saturday in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, to protest gun laws. This protest was in response to the school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, on February 14. The shooter used a AR-15
Students, teachers, parents and community members are now calling for stronger gun regulations, specifically on AR-15s. Pictured is the anti-gun rally on Saturday
Someone on Twitter thought that the continuation of the raffle demonstrated the 'insanity of US gun culture'
The youth baseball team is not the only group facing controversy for auctioning off an AR-15.
South Lyon High School in Michigan cancelled a charity dinner that was raffling off the weapon.
It cancelled the event after they received similar backlash.
Tyler Tannahill, a Kansas republican who is running for office, also received backlash. He posted an AR-15 rifle giveaway on Facebook last week
The AR-15 raffled by the baseball team was offered by a player's father who is a co-founder of a local gun store in Missouri.
Paterson said the winner must pass a background check before they can receive the rifle.
But there was backlash on Twitter after people heard about the raffle.
One person said: 'This is disgraceful. 3rd graders should not be lawfully able to raffle an item of war, no matter for what (money) being raised. Not a very good lesson for them.'
While another person agreed with the raffle and said: 'I actually support this. Kids need to understand and learn responsible gun ownership.'
Tyler Tannahill, a republican from Kansas who is running for office, also received backlash after promoting an AR-15 rifle giveaway.
He posted the promotion on his Facebook page the day before the Florida school shooting. He said he would continue the giveaway despite backlash.
The giveaway was posted the day before the school shooting. AR-15 rifles were used to kill people in a concert in Las Vegas, a school in Newtown, Connecticut, and a club in Orlando