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AR-15 Gun Raffle is a Mainstay for a Northeast Ohio Youth Sports League

Four guns are being raffled off to support youth baseball in the small rural town of East Canton.
EAST CANTON YOUTH BASEBALL ASSOCIATION
Four guns are being raffled off to support youth baseball in the small rural town of East Canton.

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. 

Youth baseball and guns

Four guns are being raffled off to support youth baseball in the small rural town of East Canton.
Credit EAST CANTON YOUTH BASEBALL ASSOCIATION
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EAST CANTON YOUTH BASEBALL ASSOCIATION
Four guns are being raffled off to support youth baseball in the small rural town of East Canton.

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. 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.Spencer on school shootings

“It’s terrible some of the things that have happened in recent times, in the last five to 10 years. 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.

Copyright 2021 WKSU. To see more, visit WKSU.

M.L. Schultze
M.L. Schultze came to WKSU as news director in July 2007 after 25 years at The Repository in Canton, where she was managing editor for nearly a decade. She’s now the digital editor and an award-winning reporter and analyst who has appeared on NPR, Here and Now and the TakeAway, as well as being a regular panelist on Ideas, the WVIZ public television's reporter roundtable.