N.D. youth hockey association holds assault rifle raffle fundraiser weeks after Newtown tragedy

Cameron Smith

Just more than a month after 18 people lost their lives in a senseless, tragic school shooting in Connecticut, a North Dakota youth hockey association has kicked off what may be the single worst-timed fundraising campaign ever: A raffle for assault rifles.

As reported by Fargo network KVLY, the West Fargo (N.D.) Hockey Association is offering some 200 guns up in a raffle aimed at raising rougly $90,000 for the youth hockey organization. Raffle tickets are being sold for $40 per ticket, with three Rock River AR-15 assault rifles among the most prized items in the entire draw. The Rock River AR-15 model is incredibly similar to the Bushmaster AR-15 rifle that was used in the Newtown, Conn. shootings in December.

West Fargo officials said early ticket sales for the March 15 raffle have been brisk, even if the group acknowledges that the prizes on offer make the entire promotion awkward.

A promotional poster for the West Fargo gun raffle — West Fargo Hockey Association

"The timing is a little awkward," West Fargo mayor Rich Mattern told the Huffington Post. "I think that's a fair statement to say, given the discussion going on around the country. …

"[The fundraiser is] going to raise eyebrows.”

An interview that the raffle organizer Mike Prochnow gave to Fargo radio station KFGO indicated that plans for the raffle developed in August, well before the Newtown massacre. Still, no one in the organization seems to have stepped forward and advocated cancelling the fundraiser despite the fact that the West Fargo league serves children as young as 4; even younger than the victims in the Newtown shooting.

For his part, West Fargo Hockey Association president Carl Helgerson said that the raffle was needed to help pay for a dramatic increase in much-needed ice time for teams across the organization’s age range.

"With our 20 percent increase in association members this year, we have a big need for ice," Helgeson told KVLY.

Evidently ice is more important than common sense, at least in North Dakota.

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