Whither the Gun Agenda

An AR-15 such as this one is being raffled by a local youth trap shooting club.

Associated Press file photo

Lincoln Public Schools has asked the Lincoln Northeast Trap Club to remove social media references to its raffle of an AR-15 — the kind of weapon used to kill 17 people and injure scores of others at a Florida school last week.

Northeast High School Principal Kurt Glathar said he learned about the fundraiser for the community-based club last night and was concerned about the semi-automatic rifle’s association with mass shootings such as the one at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, last Wednesday. He said he’d gotten a few calls from concerned parents.

“I think it’s raised some anxiety,” he said. “It’s not just that our kids here at our school are doing a raffle. There’s heightened anxiety everywhere.”

The club is not a school-sponsored club, but like other youth trap shooting clubs across the city, it’s affiliated with the high school boundaries so students who attend Northeast or middle schools in the area can be part of that club. The school has no control over the club's fundraisers, Glathar said. 

Jeff Woodward, president of the parent-run youth club, said it has raffles every year to help support the cost for kids who participate in the sport. This year’s raffle — which also includes a pump-action shotgun and a bolt-action rifle — was already well underway when the Florida shooting occurred.

“The tickets were made in January and the majority were sold before February,” he said. “At that point it was so late to do anything about it.”

The club didn’t advertise the raffle, though some of the parents, who sold the majority of the tickets, promoted it on social media, he said. Parents have been asked to remove references to it on social media.

While Glathar said he would prefer the fundraiser involve a different firearm, he stressed that the trap shooting club has been around since before he became principal 14 years ago and called it a positive organization that focuses on gun safety.

“I’ve not heard anything in my time here where someone was hurt while they were in the club,” he said. “They really do promote gun safety.”

The club’s sponsors provide the firearms for the club’s raffles, and they remain with the authorized dealer, Woodward said. Those who buy raffle tickets must include their birth date, as well as name and phone number. Only adults can win the raffle and have to go through background checks and other requirements before they can get the prize, he said.

The club doesn’t refer to the firearms used by members as weapons because that’s not their purpose, and the shooting in Florida has nothing to do with what the club is all about, he said.

“What we do here is all about youth and finding a safe way to partake in a sport they enjoy,” Woodward said.

The Cornhusker Trap Shoot in Doniphan is the largest youth event of its kind in the world and draws about 3,000 kids, Woodward said.

Although the trap shooting club doesn't use AR-15s, the rifles are used by many for target shooting or hunting animals such as prairie dogs or raccoons, he said.

“It’s one of the most popular target guns in the world,” he said.

AR stands for Armalite rifle, named after the company that developed the firearm — not for “assault rifle.”

But AR-style rifles have been used in some of the deadliest shootings in recent years and have become a flashpoint for the gun control debate.

A Missouri youth baseball team decided to move ahead with its raffle of an AR-15 rifle despite criticism following the Florida shooting; and Tyler Tannahill, a Republican congressional candidate from Kansas, drew criticism for offering a giveaway of the same style of rifle as part of his campaign.

Reach the writer at 402-473-7226 or mreist@journalstar.com.

On Twitter @LJSreist.


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