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Atwood Gun Raffle Draws Attention

ATWOOD-- Amy Hatch, founder of the Champaign chapter of Moms Demand Action, says, "It struck me as ill-advised. Just the headline: 'Little League plus Rifle Raffle' seems like a really bad idea."

The Atwood Armory has been getting a lot of attention lately for its decision to raffle off an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle to raise money for the Atwood-Hammond Little League. Charidy Butcher is the co-owner of the gun shop, and says, "We do a raffle every quarter through our business. We opened in November of 2011, our first raffle started in January of 2012. We always try to pick a worthy organization or cause, try to keep it local as much as we can."

Butcher says 100% of the profits from each of the armory's fundraisers go to the organizations, and the armory has even turned down offers to help run the raffle. Steve McClain is the Little League's commissioner, and says, "We've tried to help pay for stamps and stuff, just for all the responses to send receipts back for the checks they're receiving and they won't take anything. We've tried to help them out and pay for the little costs."

However not everyone thinks there is a positive connection between guns and little league baseball. Thursday marked the three-month anniversary of the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, and Amy Hatch says that emotions are still running high. "There are 20 sets of parents out there who are never going to see their children play little league, and here's an organization that is being very open and vocal about using this weapon to raise money."

The armory is raffling off the same weapon for a cancer foundation and has raised more than $8,000 so far. They have equally high hopes for the little league raffle. Says Butcher, "The amount of response we've gotten is tremendous. I've gotten calls from Alaska to Florida and everywhere in-between."

With the gun control debate creating such awareness in recent months, many people are left wondering why guns have to be the big draw at all. Hatch says, "We really have to ask ourselves as a society how it is that we're able to raise thousands of dollars raffling off an item that contributes significantly to a public health problem when selling a spaghetti dinner isn't going to net them anywhere near the amount of money that they're raising."

Butcher says, "We just picked the rifle because it's the one that's going to sell the tickets right now. We just wanted to raise as much money as we could for the fundraiser."

Adam Rife reporting