Youth baseball team stirs controversy with 'inappropriate' fundraiser: 'Beyond irresponsible'

A youth baseball team that planned to raffle off guns as a fundraising effort has canceled the campaign, amid backlash from several parents.

The Hilliard Colts, a travel baseball team in Hilliard, Ohio, had originally planned to raise money during a community dinner this Saturday, the Washington Post reported.

But that event, which offered a buffet dinner, beer for the parents and a live DJ, was ultimately canceled just days before it was set to take place. The decision came after several community members saw ads promoting a raffle planned for the event — where the team would auction off two pistols and two assault rifles, including a military-style AR-15.

"My kids played travel baseball, too, but there is appropriate and inappropriate," Hilliard resident Lori Hamlin told The Washington Post. "How can you ask kids to have active-shooter drills in school and after school ask them to sell raffle tickets to win weapons that you are trying to protect yourself against?"

It’s unclear why the guns were chosen in particular, but the Washington Post reported that at least two of the raffle’s sponsors — Cap City Outfitters, a Hilliard-based gun retailer, and Shoot Point Blank, a gun range in a nearby town — had connections to firearm sales.

Kevin Yankovich, the commissioner of the Hilliard Baseball Association, told the Washington Post that while the fundraiser was "completely legal and being run in a responsible manner," he personally didn’t agree with the idea.

"As a parent of five kids, with one in high school and one in junior high, I, in no way, have come to the conclusion that a gun raffle is going to promote violence," Yankovich said.

Yankovich added that he and his fellow board of directors members chose to cancel the raffle late last week. Instead, the organization will offer refunds, or allow participants to transfer their raffle tickets to a chance at winning a new prize, such as a Visa gift card.

The decision came after advertisements for the event were posted on Facebook, sparking an online debate in which many called the concept “appalling.”

"These boys are 12 and 13. They haven’t had the opportunity to grow up and create their own beliefs or formalize their own opinions about gun laws," Michelle Vroom, another Hilliard resident, told the Washington Post. "Asking a child to peddle tickets for a deadly weapon is beyond irresponsible."

Some children, however, seemed excited by the idea. One mother who commented on the organization’s now-deleted Facebook ad, wrote that her son was encouraged by how easily he was selling tickets for the firearm raffle.

"When I talked to him about this he said, ‘I’ll sell a lot!!!'" the mother wrote. "This is way better than selling candy bars or Super Bowl squares."

Meanwhile, Vroom told the Washington Post that the raffle "trivializes a national crisis." In particular, AR-15s have been used in several of the country’s most devastating mass shootings in recent years — including the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, the 2012 movie theater shooting in Aurora, Colo. and the 2015 shooting in San Bernardino, Calif.

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