DALLAS, Ore. -- A Dallas girls softball program will continue its fundraising raffle of an AR-15-style rifle after the Parkland, Florida, school shooting, a move some area residents are calling tone-deaf and inappropriate.
The Lady Dragons fast-pitch softball program is raising money for equipment, field improvements and to help ensure registration fees remain low for families. The program has teams for girls ages 10-and-under through 16-and-under.
As part of the fundraiser, the group is holding a raffle April 4 for a semiautomatic AR-15 rifle, according to an event flyer. Tickets are $25. There are other prizes, too, and people can purchase tickets by emailing the program, according to the flyer.
Michelle Johnstone, superintendent of the Dallas School District, stressed the girls softball program is not district-affiliated. She said she hopes the fundraiser doesn't affect the district's reputation. "We have nothing to do with it."
A Lady Dragons statement provided to the Statesman Journal on Monday read: "While we sympathize with current events and the climate surrounding them, this is a legal, well-regulated raffle, with tickets being sold to willing and able purchasers."
"The winner of the raffle will have to pass all necessary background checks, the same as would be required of them to purchase the rifle," the statement said.
The Lady Dragons said a private donor provided the rifle. "Raffling a high-ticket item, yes, even a firearm, has been done by similar sports organizations with great success."
Jim Moore, director of the Tom McCall Center for Policy Innovation at Pacific University in Forest Grove, said continuing the raffle in the wake of the Florida shooting could put the program in disrepute — and the softball program board members who approved the fundraiser aren't the ones wearing uniforms on the field.
The softball program said its raffle kicked off Jan. 30, before the Feb. 14 shooting in Florida that left 17 dead.
Still, "they are in the political sphere right now by doing this," Moore said. "The post-Florida landscape . . . changes the political calculus."
Rebecca Penna, a former Dallas High School teacher who lives in Rickreall, said she wonders how wise it is to raffle off a gun for a youth sport program.
Even if the gun were only used for target practice, she said, "the impression it gives is distasteful."
Jody Lewis, who lives in Eugene but grew up in Dallas, said the issue has divided her hometown. "It's been incredibly polarizing," she said.
Dallas City Council President Micky Garus, one of the softball program's board members, said in a Feb. 3 Facebook post to the Dallas Oregon Community Bulletin Board that he was banned from the social media website for 24 hours after he posted details about the raffle.
Garus said in his social media post, "It's really sad; we are trying to do something good for our community by providing funding opportunities for youth sports, and it resulted in a few people dictating to the majority what they deemed inappropriate."
He said in the post many people had already purchased tickets for the raffle and urged support for the fundraiser. Garus did not respond to a request for comment for this story.
Email email@example.com, call (503) 399-6714 or follow on Twitter @jonathanmbach.