TWIN FALLS, Idaho (KMVT/KSVT) Following the Twin Falls School District cancellation of a fundraiser gun raffle for the Canyon Ridge High School baseball team, a Buhl-based Patriot Defense is launching a new gun raffle where proceeds will go to the baseball team.
The owner, founder, and sole employee of the group Patriot Defense - Todd Eccles talks to KMVT about a canceled gun raffle for the Canyon Ridge High School baseball team (KMVT/KSVT)
KMVT was notified of a post via Facebook message from a viewer, where the group announces their intent to "start another raffle for an AR-15" with the proceeds going to the baseball team.
The original gun raffle fundraiser for the Canyon Ridge High School baseball team was organized by the head coach and team booster club president in the early summer. He did not wish to comment on the matter and referred KMVT to school officials. The Twin Falls School District said the reasoning behind canceling the gun raffle was because the coach did not go through proper channels or inform the school activities director of the fundraiser.
"We do ask that all coaches notify their activities director of all fundraising taking place and that unfortunately just didn't happen in this case, and so we've asked that the students return the money," Twin Falls School District Public Relations Director Eva Craner said.
Craner also said the timing was factor in canceling the fundraiser, following a pair of mass shootings nationally that left 31 people dead last weekend. "In light of national events, it's just not appropriate at this time for our students to be selling those tickets," Craner previously said.
KMVT reached out to the owner, founder and sole employee of Patriot Defense Todd Eccles who agreed to an interview.
"Growing up in school around here, you know," Eccles said. "Idaho has a long history of sports team raffling off firearms. You know a raffle, a shotgun, or whatever it may to earn money for their team."
Eccles said that following the news of the school district's decision to cancel the gun raffle, he spoke to a mother of player on the baseball team who did not want him to release her name via Facebook message.
"This mom got a hold of me and she's so glad to hear from me," Eccles said. "She didn't want to let this go and said it was a shame that these kids went through all this hard work to sell these raffle tickets and try to earn money for their baseball team and she's really upset by it. But she's really happy somebody was willing to step in and kind of move forward with and consider what we consider a wrong a right again."
When asked whether Eccles agrees with part of the district's reasoning that the original raffle was in poor taste due to the timing, he says:
"I know everyone is acting emotional right now because of what happened," he said. "The gun is not the problem; it's the person who pulled the trigger."
As for the second raffle Eccles has organized, he says the winner will not just be handed a rifle.
"What they're going to get is they're still going to have to go through a background check," Eccles said. "D & B supply is the one that's helping me out with the raffle. We're going to go to D & B Supply and they're going to get a gift card in the amount of the rifle. And if they don't want a rifle they can use the gift card on something else."
Eccles disagrees with the school district's decision, but sees why they did it. However, he's concerned it could be used as precedent by other school district's to cancel similar events.
"I'm going to have a check. I'm going to make it out to the Canyon Ridge baseball team and they're either going to take it or their not," Eccles said. "If they don't I'll find another school that will."