Among the things you might expect to find auctioned at a fundraiser for students: a spa visit, restaurant gift certificates, a goodie basket from the local fancy gift shop. Perhaps less expected? A semi-automatic rifle. A group of parents at a Florida high school, however, went for the latter to raise money for their students’ post-graduation activities.
Volunteers for the Project Graduation program, a parent-run organization that provides adult-supervised, drug- and alcohol-free activities for students to attend after graduation, decided to auction off a Diamondback 15CCMLB, a military-style semi-automatic firearm. Flyers advertising the raffle indicated it was for Astronaut High School, located in Titusville, Florida.
“Project Graduation is not a school-based organization, and Astronaut High School nor Brevard Public Schools receive any funds or benefits from the program,” Russell Bruhn, chief strategic communications officer for Brevard Public Schools, told Today Parents. “The school district has no affiliation with Project Graduation.”
School officials have told Project Graduation representatives they must remove the high school’s name from all materials promoting the raffle, but an image of the flyer, first seen on Facebook, has gone viral.
Orlando-based CBS affiliate WKMG covered the story, and shared the report on its Facebook page, where commenters expressed both disgust and support.
“The ROTC at our High School raffled a rifle last year,” wrote John Denham from Tampa, Florida. “They did GREAT!! I love living in RURAL Florida. We don’t allow whiney, left wing liberals here!!!!”
“Responsible gun owners would also find this troubling,” wrote Kristen Otterson. “It’s in very bad taste considering the amount of mass school shootings that occur. I don’t care that ‘back in your day’ you brought guns to school. Read the room.”
In fact, according to a story in Florida Today, in January 2017 Astronaut High School narrowly averted an event like the Parkland school shooting. After getting a tip from a teacher’s spouse, police found that two 17-year-old male students had the “clear ability” to carry out an attack on the school. According to police records obtained by the newspaper, the stockpile of weapons in one of the student’s bedrooms included .22-caliber rifles, a .380 pistol, loaded magazines, homemade axes, knives and machetes as well as improvised gas masks and bulletproof vests. Both students were expelled and turned over to the juvenile justice system.
Almost 22 years after the mass shooting at Columbine High School, school shootings are still an epidemic in the United States, despite the best efforts and significant gains by gun control advocates. (It should be noted that whoever wins the rifle in the Florida auction will need to pass a background check, and Project Graduation will have to follow all legal requirements for transferring ownership.)
“[W]hat has for too long been the silent majority, 90 percent of Americans, do support stronger gun laws,” Shannon Watts, founder of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, told SheKnows.
Common sense gun legislation — and you know, maybe thinking twice before using guns in anything school-related — is key to making a difference. Talk to family and friends to debunk gun myths with these tips from Moms Demand Action.
As Watts told us, “As long as you’re having these conversations with facts and data, and not buying into the rhetoric and the anecdotes of the gun lobby that these people have been listening to for decades, I think it’s easier to have a fruitful, productive conversation.”