"Scary-looking" gun in raffle benefitting youth sports sparks controversy

(AP Photo/Alex Brandon, File)

A raffle designed to put money in the coffers of a youth softball league in Texas is undergoing some changes after a few complaints about the supposedly inappropriate nature of the giveaway: the chance to win an AR-style rifle and a Glock handgun in particular.

Among those complaining; parent Elizabeth England, whose daughters have played in the South Montgomery Girls Softball League for the past ten years. And what exactly is England’s issue?

“I was like, okay not my favorite thing in the world but it’s Texas, it’s Montgomery County,” England said.

She got an email about a fall fundraiser and they were raffling off a gun. One entry is $25 and five entries are $100.

“It would be one thing if they were raffling off a hunting rifle, it’s about to be hunting season,” noted England. “This a semi-automatic Smith and Wesson AR 15 style rifle, one of those big scary-looking guns.”

I have news for England: every firearm is a deadly weapon, whether we’re talking about a Glock 17, a Smith & Wesson M&P 15T II, a revolver, repeating rifle, or a bolt-action hunting rifle with a warm and friendly wooden stock. That old-fashioned hunting rifle is likely to be more powerful than an AR-15, however, and honestly it sounds like England would be just as upset if organizers of the raffle had offered up any gun as a prize.

England says her concerns lie more with the timing and the “type” of weapon being raffled off.

“I don’t think it’s appropriate for a children’s activity to be raffling off this type of weapon. They wouldn’t raffle off a liquor and tobacco basket, they wouldn’t raffle off a gift card to a dispensary, those are not appropriate for children’s activities and I don’t think this is either.”

I don’t what Texas law has to say about raffling off booze or tobacco, but I’d absolutely be willing to purchase a few tickets for a bourbon basket or a cigar giveaway, and what would be the issue? It’s not like kids are entering the raffle themselves. It’s their parents and other adult supporters of the youth softball league who are kicking in their cash to keep young athletes on the field, so why shouldn’t the raffle giveaway reflect the interests of adults and not the children who participate in the softball league?

While England’s complaints haven’t gone unheeded, I doubt she’s going to be pleased with the compromise the raffle organizers came up with.

In a statement to KPRC-TV, the league initially defended its decision. “The gun raffle is a legal and common practice,” they said.

“All winners will need to pass a background check before receiving any prize,” it continued. “If winners don’t pass the background check, they are deemed ineligible. SMGSL strives to be responsive to the needs of our membership.”

However, according to KPRC-TV, the league has responded to the outrage by swapping the prize. Instead of the guns, the raffle winner will receive a $1,400 gift card to Springs Gun and Ammo, a local gun store, the local news station reported.

Now England doesn’t have to fret about the league officially offering a “big scary-looking” gun as a prize, and the winner of the raffle can still pick out an AR-style rifle if they choose. Like I said, that probably doesn’t go far enough for the few opponents of the raffle (the league says its received three complaints from more than 500 families), but I applaud the league for sticking to its guns, so to speak. The primary purpose of this raffle may be designed to benefit the youth softball league, but it’s also an opportunity to stand up and speak out against those who would denormalize our right to keep and bear arms, and the league is sending a message of its own by refusing to give in to the demands of a handful of anti-gun advocates.