An annual fundraiser for an Ohio town’s youth football and cheerleading teams is making headlines after a concerned mom spoke out when her three daughters were asked to sell tickets for a gun raffle. This year’s second-place prize is a semi-automatic AM-15 rifle.
Heather Chilton told local news outlet WCPO that she felt it was inappropriate for her daughters — ages 7, 8 and 10 — to be promoting a gun raffle, particularly in light of the recent mass shootings in El Paso and Dayton. The latter city is just over an hour-long drive from her home in New Richmond, Ohio.
“They should do brownie bakes and cakes and bikes and ‘Go Team,’” she told the station of the New Richmond Junior Lions fundraiser, which is intended to cover the cost of uniforms and equipment. “Not, ‘Hey, you want to buy a gun? I know I’m only 7 years old, but that’s what we’re selling!’”
“They should just be able to be kids,” she added.
And while she and her husband are gun owners, the latest news headlines have given her pause.
“I had the tickets laying there, I was watching the news, and they asked if these mass shootings were becoming a sport,” she said. “And I’m looking at these gun raffles that my little girls are supposed to sell, and I’m thinking, ‘This can’t be right.’”
In a separate interview with Fox 19, Chilton expressed her fears about having her family linked to the gun.
“This is absurd, you’re having elementary kids sell your AR-15. Why?” Chilton said. “I highly doubt that something would happen with the gun, but say it did. Say one of the kids in the high school got a hold of it — got the AR-15 or AM-15 and shot up a school with it, and I’m the one that sold the raffle ticket to his dad?”
Robert Wooten, president of the New Richmond Junior Lions Football-Cheer Program, told Chilton that her daughters could opt out of selling the tickets. But the prize of a rifle will remain, as it has for the past four years. He told WCPO that the winner will be subject to an FBI background check.
But Chilton would like to see the gun raffle be shut down rather than have it associated with a group of young girls. Wooten said the league may consider that for next year.
"I'm sure they do all the appropriate things,” she said of the potential winner. “That's not the point. The point is that our little girls should have nothing to do with it, period. They should be cheerleaders."
Chilton’s story has elicited strong opinions on both sides of the gun control debate. Some praised the mom for speaking out.
“If I had the means, I would buy every ticket just so I could destroy the grand prize,” wrote a Facebook commenter. “This is absolutely disgusting!”
“I'm as pro-gun as they come but this is not an appropriate raffle item,” read another comment.
Others accused Chilton of sabotaging the fundraiser, with cheerleading coaches and other parents offering to sell raffle tickets to those who disagree with her stance.
“As a mother who has children who are a part of the CCYFL, our team has been selling raffles for a firearm for some time now,” one mom wrote. “Not sure why this is such BIG NEWS! I feel the world we live in now someone is going to get butt hurt. Here is a SIMPLE thing, if you do not agree to the fundraiser then SIMPLY do not partake in it and just make a donation to your team!”
“You sell your gift basket tickets, and I will sell the gun tickets, and we will see who makes the most money,” added another commenter. “Just a tool that a lot of people would love to have.”
Yahoo Lifestyle was not immediately successful in its attempt to locate Chilton for contact.
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