© 2024 WOSU Public Media
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations
WOSP-FM in Portsmouth is operating at reduced power. In the meantime, listen online or with the WOSU mobile app.

Ohio Youth Sports League Comes Under Fire For AR-15 Raffle

Lisa Marie Pane
AR-15 style rifles made by Battle Rifle Co., a gunmaker in Webster, Texas, are on display in its retail shop.

A youth baseball league in Northeast Ohio is raffling off four guns, including an AR-15. It’s the fifth year for the fundraiser, though organizers acknowledge it’s drawing more attention than usual in the past. 

East Canton Youth Baseball Association president David Spencer says the gun raffles have kept registration and equipment costs at a minimum and helped grow the program from 60 to 140 kids. But he acknowledges some people have a problem with assault-style weapons underwriting youth sports, which is why the league started a kid’s “hit-a-thon” alternative last year.

“A grandparent may be interested in doing the hit-a-thon, but maybe an uncle may be interested in the gun raffle,” Spencer said. “That’s why we target different demographics for these fundraisers to make sure that not anyone group is carrying the burden.”

Spencer says guns are part of his rural Stark County community’s culture and no one has voiced objections to him directly. But he has seen Facebook posts protesting the drawings.

Spencer says he understands that the issue is a sensitive one, especially after the school shootings in Parkland, Fla.

“It’s terrible some of the things that have happened in recent times, in the last five to 10 years,” he said. “Those are tragedies and I’m not trying to discount those. But I don’t think taking away any other person’s individual rights in any way helps that."

Each year, the group sells 1,500 to 2,000 raffle tickets. The gun transfers are done through a dealer and include background checks.