ROOTSTOWN, Ohio (WOIO) - In a town about 50 miles southeast of Cleveland, people are buying gun raffle tickets.
Five AR-15 assault-style weapons are prizes in the drawing that’s supposed to raise money for a youth football program in Rootstown.
After so many tragedies involving guns, the idea of a gun raffle as a fundraiser doesn’t sit right with some people.
Gun experts say raffling off a gun is just like buying one though, and that’s why people have the right to do it, as long as they follow the rules.
Diane Donnett at Stonewall gun range says, “People shouldn’t be afraid of it. [Organizations] do it legally. You’ve got to be able to pass a background check. If you can’t pass a background check, you don’t win the gun."
She says her store has safely helped put on several gun raffles.
She says the raffles typically make a lot of money.
“They’re huge in Ohio,” she said.
A similar fundraiser is happening in Mantua tonight.
The Fire Department is raffling off 10 guns at the beginning of next month.
When 19 News reached out, a department spokesperson gave the following statement:
“I certainly understand the points of view from both sides of the gun argument. And the negative perception it might have to some that the fire association is raffling off firearms. However, this is our third or fourth gun raffle, and honestly the first time that we have received some push back/negative responses from a few in the community. Perhaps bad timing, due to two mass shootings right in the middle of the raffle? Maybe? In the future the fire association might have to look at other ways to do fund raising.”
Both the fire department and the football program say they are using a federal fire arms license dealer like Donnett.
The community member who alerted 19 News to the fundraiser wanted to remain anonymous. But he gave us this written statement:
“The Rootstown Youth Football organization provides opportunities for the community youth and is a strong and consistent advocate for township pride. However, in spite of the charged social climate regarding semi-automatic weapons, they continue to use them as raffle prizes for fundraisers. In the wake of tragic school shootings in places like Columbine, Chardon, Sandy Hook, Parkland, the STEM school in Colorado (the list unfortunately goes on and on) and the generally uneasy feeling about public safety and mass casualty incidents, a lot of people feel that it is in poor taste and inappropriate to associate lethal weaponry with youth activities. There are concerns about the proliferation of these types of weapons and their association with the broader issue of gun control. By continuing to hold these raffles despite voiced concerns, it shows that the Youth Football organization is willing to court controversy. They may have a legal right to raffle off these weapons as fundraisers, but that still doesn’t mean that it is fosters positive perception when associated with youth activities. Just because you can, doesn’t mean that you should.”
The Rootstown Youth Football program says it is not affiliated with the local school district.
The same program is facing criticism after kids ran out onto the field with a Trump 2020 flag.
The organization responded to complaints, saying the league was not aware players were going to fly the flag Sunday.
The board says it addressed the issue with the family who is very passionate for Mr. Trump. It agreed to keep politics off the field going forward.