An area softball team is raffling off an AR-15 rifle to raise money to compete in a California tournament later this month.
For $20 a ticket, 15 girls from Centennial, Gresham, and Milwaukie high schools are hoping that the rifle raffle earns them the $6,000 they need to represent Oregon at the West Regional Tournament in Lancaster, Calif., July 23-27.
The players are between the ages of 14 and 18.
The raffle comes at a time of heightened national concern about access to deadly assault rifles, but a representative of the team defends the raffle, calling it a "non-issue."
"This is still America, where I believe we are free to pursue our own joy," writes Georgia Herr, a district manager for the team, in an email. "For those who have the money and resources to shoot rifles, I believe they have as much of a right to do so as those who spend their time chasing invisible Pokémon."
But not everybody supports Oregon's Big League Girls' All Star Softball Team raffle.
The Board of Directors for Centennial Little League has denounced it.
"Given the events of the past month and the tragic deaths of children in schools and other public spaces over recent years, the Centennial Little League Board of Directors does not condone the raffling of this rifle," the group wrote in a statement.
Centennial Little League is not affiliated with Oregon's Big League Girls' All Star Softball Team, but the girls' coach, Ron Brown, is president of the little league's board of directors.
"We are not affiliated with this team in anyway, financially or administratively, and we don't agree with this raffle," says Jennifer Loman, spokeswoman for Centennial Little League.
Brown, the team's coach, deferred questions to Herr, who said the team is acting responsibly and following state guns rules.
A team volunteer who works for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security came up with the idea, says Herr. "He's communicated with the state regarding both gambling laws and the procedure for awarding the prize," she says.
Players were told to sell tickets only to people over 18 who are legally able to buy guns. They've also been told to tell buyers that if they win, they'll need to pass a gun background check, says Herr.
Also, players don't have to participate in the raffle if they feel uncomfortable.
This isn't the first time an Oregon group has auctioned a gun to raise money. In 2012, the Clackamas County Commissioner Tootie Smith auctioned off a Glock pistol to raise money for her campaign. That didn't involve children.
Herr defends the timing of the raffle—and the idea of letting minors sell the tickets.
"I don't presume to judge what is appropriate for others, but I do believe parents are responsible for teaching their children," she says, "That's why this was initiated with parent involvement."