The coach of a traveling 9-and-under youth baseball team in Neosho, Mo., is standing by his decision to raffle off an AR-15 rifle as a fundraiser.

The gun, donated by a team member's parent who co-founded local gun purveyor Black Rain Ordnance Inc., has gained infamy as the weapon of choice in mass shootings, including the school shooting last week that killed 14 students and three employees in Parkland, Fla.

Dan Patterson, the team's coach, told the Kansas City Star that he considered raffling off an alternative prize in the wake of Wednesday's tragedy but decided instead to "turn it into a positive thing" after "getting the hate." Most blowback came from social media users. 

"I applaud them for standing up for what they believe in," Patterson told the Star, which ran his comments Saturday under the headline, "Third-graders are selling AR-15 raffle tickets in Missouri." "I just think they have feelings to this specific type of gun (that are) different than people around here do."

As much of the country engaged in a gun-control debate online post-Parkland, Patterson likewise dug in regarding the raffle. One individual commented on Patterson's page, "Are you all tone deaf? AR15 kills seventeen so you raffle a gun for child sports? Lord, people wake the hell up. Justify all you want but you are wrong, period.” Patterson responded by writing that "gun raffles have been going on for years. Evil has and will always exist. Our hearts break for those involved, and we do not take that lightly.”

The raffle is not affiliated with the Neosho School District, but mere hours after the Florida shooting, South Elementary School principal Lee Woodward took to her own Facebook page to encourage community support of "9u players, coaches, and parents " through raffle participation.

That same day, Patterson addressed a "concerned group" online. "We appreciate your ‘concern’ but please understand, we are not, have not, and will not force one of our boys to sell raffle tickets for the Black Rain AR15 Spec 15, if they are uncomfortable doing so."

Paul Steinbach is Senior Editor of Athletic Business.