Assault rifle raffle for Astronaut High School graduation event sparks outrage, support
TITUSVILLE, Fla. – Flyers announcing an assault rifle would be raffled off at a fundraiser for Astronaut High School seniors caused concern and confusion among some parents and ardent support for others over the weekend when news of the prize spread broke, News reported 6 partner Florida Today.
The ArmaLite-style assault rifle was one of the items advertised in the Project Graduation raffle. The news prompted some parents to wonder how appropriate it would be to raffle a military-style firearm for a school-related function if there had been fatal school mass shootings over the years.
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“What do we teach our children? That guns are okay? Absolutely NOT OK. That’s why people die as easily as flies, ”Kiyah Edwards said on a Titusville News Facebook page. Another person on the thread, Kate Perez, compared it to alcohol and cigarette raffles.
Most parents, however, used social media to express their support for the raffle, saying it was an example of people exercising their rights under the Second Amendment.
“How weak have we become? When I was in school we had a gun rack with a gun in my truck at school and JROTC used live ammunition in the shooting range, ”said Paul Vaccaro.
Brevard Public Schools officials have advised fundraiser organizers not to use Astronaut High in their promotional materials as the school is not allowed to organize a raffle and the prize is controversial, BPS spokesman Russell Bruhn said.
“We instructed them to say that you cannot have AHS in any kind of raffle, no matter what,” said Bruhn. “We have also instructed them to remove any ads that might lead people to believe the district is part of it.”
Bruhn said Project Graduation was an independent, nonprofit organization that was not officially affiliated with the school or district and that they could raise funds as they see fit. However, he added that they cannot use either AHS or BPS to fuel their efforts.
“We don’t want our school name to be associated with the raffle,” said Bruhn. “We would do that even if there were no guns, but of course we are also a weaponless zone.”
The raffle also takes place a few years after Astronaut High turned away what has been described as parkland-style shooting.
It was found that in 2017 two students had the “clear ability” to carry out an attack on the school using an arsenal that one of them had hidden in his bedroom. Police said they held 22-caliber rifles, a .380-caliber pistol, loaded magazines, homemade axes, knives and machetes, as well as improvised gas masks and bulletproof vests. The conspiracy was exposed when the police were briefed by someone who knew what the students were up to.
According to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, raffling a firearm is legal as long as the winner is subject to the proper background check and completion of ATF documents.
As long as normal legal procedures for transferring or selling the gun are followed, the raffle is legal according to the ATF website.
Future raffles that may involve a firearm shouldn’t include school names in Brevard County yet, according to Bruhn.
A project completion organizer did not return a request for comment on Monday afternoon.
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