A nonprofit organization in North Carolina raising money for young athletes and cheerleaders stoked backlash after offering a rifle as a prize in a fundraising raffle.
The raffle held by East Henderson Youth Football and Cheerleading League (EHYFCL) in East Flat Rock, North Carolina, received criticism from some locals for offering the winner an FN 15 Patrol Carbine, according to local ABC affiliate WLOS.
“We aren’t offering an assault rifle. We are offering an FN 15 Patrol Carbine,” a spokesperson for EHYFCL told Fox News Digital. “This is an ArmaLite 15-style rifle, not fully automatic, which by definition excludes it from being classified as an assault rifle. We are following all ATF guidelines. The item is being held at an FFL, the recipient must complete an ATF form 4473 and pass an NICS background check before taking possession of it.”
Some critics took issue with the prize choice, believing it is inappropriate for a children’s league. Football players in the East Henderson league are 5 to 13 years old, and members on the cheer team are ages 4 to 13, according to the organization.
“I was honestly shocked when I received the message that the children were going to be selling an assault rifle because of what’s going on at schools around the country,” an anonymous concerned parent told WLOS. Another local parent who wished to remain anonymous said, “I thought it was in very bad taste for them to choose a weapon that is being used against children.”
The group also took flak from users on Facebook, who said the raffle was everything from “sad” and “bad” to “disgusting” and “deplorable.”
Leaders of EHYFCL also replied to the criticism in a Facebook post Thursday, writing “in response to complaints made both publicly and ‘anonymously’ regarding our raffle.”
Explaining that they are currently taking applications for an official fundraiser, the group wrote, “If you have a sure way to raise enough money quickly to get us through the rest of the season and still have enough to start up next season, we need you to use that energy in a positive way.”
After clarifying that their organization is not affiliated with the school district or the county, the group said, “The referees aren’t volunteers, the [law enforcement officers] and first responders for the children’s safety aren’t volunteers.”
“The use of the field, stadium, and facilities are not free, the lost uniforms, mouthpieces, chin straps, ear pads, bows, and socks are not free,” the group continued. “Equipment is not free, the insurance is not free, and all the other fees the league must pay are not imaginary.”
“If we’re not raising enough money, we’re forced to raise fees,” organization leaders added.
EHYFCL told WLOS they “are currently raising funds to purchase new equipment and to have the ability to sponsor children in our community who cannot afford the registration fees.”
The raffle winner must be at least 21 years old and pass a background check, a league spokesperson further explained, adding that “the AR raffle has taken place three years consecutive and brings in the most support we have ever had.”
The controversial raffle in Henderson County, North Carolina, comes months after an AR-15 raffle to benefit high school wrestlers at Chase High School in neighboring Rutherford County was suspended amid concerns about rising gun violence nationwide.