Guns

Montgomery County youth softball league amends ‘gun raffle’ after complaint

The South Montgomery Girls Softball League is now offering gift cards to a gun and ammunition store as well as a sporting goods store as prizes for its fall raffle fundraiser, instead of an assault rifle and pistol, according to information posted on its website.

SMGSL Gun Raffle
Adam Zuvanich
A flyer for a “Gun Raffle,” featuring an assault rifle and pistol as prizes, appeared Tuesday morning on the website for the South Montgomery Girls Softball League. The fundraiser was later amended to include gift cards to a gun and ammunition store as well as a sporting goods store as prizes.

A youth softball organization north of Houston has amended its raffle fundraiser for the fall season – offering gift cards to a local guns and ammunition store instead of an assault rifle and pistol – after at least one parent in the league complained about the appropriateness of giving away a semi-automatic weapon in the wake of the mass shooting at an elementary school in Uvalde.

Spring resident Jessica England, who has had two daughters play in the South Montgomery Girls Softball League, said Wednesday she is satisfied with the league's response to concerns she expressed in an email over the weekend.

A flyer posted on the league's website, smgsl.net, initially included images and descriptions of specific weapons, including an AR-15, as part of a "Gun Raffle Fundraiser." At some point Tuesday, the flyer was replaced by a similar graphic advertising a "Raffle Fundraiser," with no references to guns.

And instead of offering the assault rifle and a 9mm handgun as raffle prizes, winners will receive gift cards to either Spring Guns & Ammo or Academy Sports + Outdoors.

"My biggest problem was with them giving away that specific type of rifle when that type of rifle is so closely tied to every mass shooting, every school shooting we've had in the last 20 years," England said. "I would prefer that they don't do any sort of raffles affiliated with guns at all. But my key point was that that rifle was the problem. I do feel like they heard that and took that into consideration and made the change to at least address that problem."

Representatives of the South Montgomery Girls Softball League (SMGSL), including the president of the league's board of directors, did not respond to Tuesday emails seeking comment about the raffle and the related change as seen on the league website.

In a statement to Houston television station KPRC, which first reported about the gun raffle on Monday, the league said it was aware of three complaints about the fundraiser among its membership of 525 families. The league also said raffle winners would need to pass a background check before receiving one of the guns.

"SMGSL strives to be responsive to the needs of our membership and will poll all league members to solicit their feedback on the direction of future raffles," the league also said in its statement to KPRC. "If a substantial portion of our membership wants a change in this area, we will make the adjustment in subsequent raffle events."

Andrew Bradbury, a manager at The Woodlands location for Spring Guns & Ammo, said the store was not involved in amending the details of the raffle. He also said gun raffles are "pretty common," with the shop having been involved in three of them during the last couple months.

In each instance, Bradbury said firearms involved in the raffle were purchased by the raffle organizer and kept at the store until the winner was announced. He said winners of gun raffles must pass background checks before the weapon is released to them.

"So the firearm never leaves our store (beforehand)," Bradbury said.

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), which did not respond to a Tuesday voicemail left at its Houston Field Division, outlines lawful procedures for gun raffles on its website.

At least one other gun raffle is ongoing in Montgomery County. The Marine Corps JROTC program at The Woodlands College Park High School, according to information posted at twcpjrotcevents.com, is holding a "Marksmanship Challenge" fundraiser on Sunday at a shooting range in Conroe. The event includes a raffle, and among the prizes being offered are an AR-15 rifle, a pistol and a 12-gauge shotgun.

Neither a representative of the JROTC program, nor its booster club, responded to Tuesday messages seeking comment. The website for the national Marine Corps JROTC program says marksmanship is an "integral part" of the curriculum and that its cadets use air rifles for training and competition.

England, who grew up in Montgomery County, said she realizes guns and hunting are popular among many residents there. She said she still was "floored" when she received an email promoting the gun raffle last Friday from the SMGSL, which according to its website serves girls ages 5-18 who reside primarily in Oak Ridge North, The Woodlands and surrounding areas. England, whose children have played in the league for the better part of the last decade, said she is not aware of it holding a similar raffle in previous years.

The softball league's fall raffle started Saturday and initially advertised a "Smith & Wesson 15T II 5.65" and a "Glock 17 Gen 5 (9mm)" as prizes. The raffle, which runs through Nov. 11, now features a $1,400 gift card to Spring Guns & Ammo, a $600 gift card to the same store and a $250 gift card to Academy Sports + Outdoors.

It has been less than four months since 19 schoolchildren and two teachers in Uvalde, a town about 85 miles west of San Antonio, were massacred by a lone gunman using an AR-15 rifle.

On Tuesday, what proved to be a false report of an active shooter at Heights High School in Houston prompted a swift police response and caused a scare that rippled across the city and beyond.

"I know that it's a pretty common raffle. I'm sure it makes a ton of money and that's why people do it," England said. "It just, man, something about it doesn't sit right. This is little kids. This is little kids who multiple times a year have to practice what they're going to do with one of these guns (in an active-shooter scenario). And here we are giving them away?"

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