Gun raffle for Ark. school band stirs mixed emotions & mixed communications

Gun raffle for Ark. school band stirs mixed emotions & mixed communications
(Source: KAIT-TV)

JONESBORO, Ark. (KAIT) - A gun raffle meant to benefit a northeast Arkansas high school band has some in the community questioning the method used for fundraising.

The Westside Band Boosters and Emerald Valley Trading Post are hosting a gun raffle to benefit the Westside High School band’s upcoming trip to Disney, according to the flyer.

The fundraiser is raffling off a Smith & Wesson Military & Police 15 Sport 2 rifle.

But the fundraiser, meant to help the band get to the “happiest place on earth”, has left many people unhappy. Many people are questioning why the Westside Band Booster and Emerald Valley Trading Post would host such a raffle at Westside.

For many, it brings up memories of a tragic day in Westside’s history. In 1998, two boys killed four students and a teacher in a shooting at Westside Middle School.

Neither the Westside Band Booster nor the Emerald Valley Trading Post wanted to talk to Region 8 News on camera about the fundraiser. Westside Band Boosters President Stacy Walz did release a statement.

“The high school band at Westside Consolidated School District takes a large trip every 4 years where the band has the opportunity to perform on a larger stage in places like Florida and Washington, D.C. Over the last four years, the Westside Band Boosters have been fundraising for this quadrennial trip. This year, the Band Boosters added fundraisers that other organizations have found successful in supporting their kids’ programs. These include the chance to win a rifle,” the statement noted.

"In our rural community, hunting and target shooting are very popular activities, and more excitement has been raised over this fundraiser than anything else we’ve offered in the last four years. Additionally, we are using a reputable dealer for the purchase of the rifle and will require the recipient to be at least 18 years of age and undergo a full background check before they take possession. We are aware and sensitive of Westside’s past and would hope this wouldn’t continue to be the singular defining incident for our school."

The flyer for the raffle states you must be 18 or older and pass a background check to win.

Officials with the Emerald Valley Trading post said there’s a mandatory background check required and enforced before a gun would be given to a winner.

The flyer stated the winner would be announced at Westside’s homecoming football game on Nov. 8, however, Superintendent Scott Gauntt said that will not happen.

Gauntt said the school has nothing to do with the fundraiser and the raffle drawing would not happen at the football game.

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