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Cheerleading league faces backlash after asking students to sell raffle tickets for a semi-automatic rifle

An elementary school cheerleading team faced the ire of some parents after it asked students to sell raffle tickets for a semi-automatic rifle for a cheerleading and football fundraiser, Fox19 reported.

Heather Chilton, whose 7-year-old daughter, Naveah, joined the Junior Lions Cheer Team in New Richmond, Ohio, this year, told the local news station her daughter was asked to sell raffle tickets as a fundraiser for the cheerleading and football program.

The prize is an AM-15 optic ready rifle. 

"This is absurd, you're having elementary kids sell your AR-15. Why?" Chilton told Fox19. "I highly doubt that something would happen with the gun, but say it did. Say one of the kids in the high school got a hold of it - got the AR-15 or AM-15 and shot up a school with it, and I'm the one that sold the raffle ticket to his dad?"

Chilton said she received an email in July saying that all of the members of the cheerleading team would be required to sell five of the AM-15 raffle tickets as part of a fundraiser for the program, which she said could be dangerous with in the wake of mass shootings in the U.S., like the back-to-back attacks in Dayton, Ohio, and El Paso, Texas, that left more than 30 dead.

"I can't see them selling some type of semi-automatic rifle when we have all these mass shootings going on, going door to door," she said.

Approximately 150 children participate in the program, CNN reported.

Robert Wooten, president of New Richmond Junior Lions Football Inc, told Fox19 that, as a father of five, he understood that parents may have concerns and made the raffle optional.

The organization is an independent cheerleading and football nonprofit that is not associated with a specific school.

"They are not obligated. They are not required to participate in the gun raffle. We do suggest it," Wooten told Fox19. "We recommend it just because the money we receive is obviously needed for us to continue to provide sports for our community."

Wooten told CNN that three mothers have complained about the raffle so far, but other parents have embraced the fundraiser, saying the tickets have "sold like hot cakes."

"It's easy to sell. It's a hot item," Wooten told CNN. 

Wooten added that the winner of the raffle will still have to pass an FBI background check before receiving the semi-automatic gun. The board of the organization chose the prize.

Although Chilton told Fox19 that Naveah will be opting out of the fundraiser, she still does not feel comfortable with the organization holding the raffle.

"With me doing this, I'm teaching the girls they have to stand up for what they believe," she said. "This is something that they shouldn't even have to worry about dealing with or even be around."

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