Why the Hell Is This High School Raffling Off an AR-15?

The AR-15, dubbed “America’s Rifle” by the NRA, has been used in some of America’s deadliest school shootings.
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A high school athletics department in a small town in central Ohio is raffling off powerful firearms—including an AR-15—to raise funds to buy equipment for the track team.

The gun raffle, in aid of the Upper Sandusky Rams Track and Field, has been so popular that this week the organizers added a fifth gun to the prize list and on Wednesday announced all 500 $10 tickets have been sold.

The guns on offer include a Savage 93R17 bolt-action rifle with scope, a Mossberg Patriot 350 Legend, two Tisas 1911 handguns, and an AR-15 rifle.  


The raffle comes in the same week as a former student used an AR-15 style weapon along with two other guns during a mass shooting that left three children and three adults dead at Covenant School in Nashville on Monday.

The AR-15, dubbed “America’s Rifle” by the National Rifle Association in 2016, has been used in many of the highest-profile mass shootings over the last decade or so, including the 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School that claimed 27 lives; the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando that left 49 dead; the Route 91 Harvest music festival shooting in Las Vegas in 2017 that killed 58 people, and the Parkland school shooting in 2018 that claimed 17 lives.

“In light of recent events … has anyone had a chance to ask the Upper Sandusky school board about the intelligence of this raffle?” one local resident commented this week on a Facebook post that referenced the gun raffle.

The Upper Sandusky school board, the school district superintendent, and the head of the track team all failed to respond to VICE News’ request for comment on the raffle.


Some local residents were angry at the “idiotic” decision to raffle off firearms to support students at a time when mass shootings are at an all-time high.

“Nothing says ‘I support track’ like a shiny new murder gun,” Nick Barnes, an Upper Sandusky resident who runs a food truck, wrote on Facebook, telling VICE News that he found the raffle “nauseating.”

While some commenters on Barnes’ post tried to defend AR-15s for personal use, many local residents were outraged at the raffle. 

“Our society is so diseased,” one Upper Sandusky resident wrote, while another added: “When I first saw this, I thought it was an April Fool’s joke. Nope, just good ole Upper Sandusky. Whatever happened to normal raffles, like sporting event tickets, gift cards to local establishments… Nope, an AR-15. Maybe it will make the kids run faster? So, so disturbing.”

But apart from the anger online, there was really “no pushback at all from the general public,” Barnes told VICE News. “For most people around here, the optics and the real-life consequences are simply beyond their scope of reckoning. There are a small minority who are appalled, but as you saw with the Nazis, we end up being seen as the troublemakers.”

Barnes was referring to the Upper Sandusky parents who  were unmasked last month as the founders and operators of a large neo-Nazi homeschooling network that promotes Hitler and white supremacist ideology.


The latest raffle was announced earlier this month in a Facebook post by Tim Pohlman, a coach for the Upper Sandusky Rams Track and Field team.  

“The Track moms have put together a gun raffle to raise money for the team this year. The profits will go towards getting needed equipment for the program,” Pohlman wrote. “Let myself or a member on our team know if you want to get in on the fun and support our Upper Sandusky Track team.”

Pohlman said the funds would go towards buying hurdle carts to properly transport newly-purchased hurdles.

In Ohio this week, gun control advocates criticized Gov. Mike DeWine for his plan to spend $388 million to place a police officer in every public and private school in an effort to prevent school shootings. Last year, DeWine signed a law allowing teachers to carry weapons in classrooms with only 20 hours of training.

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