After Fla. school shooting, South Lyon boosters cancel AR-15 raffle

James David Dickson
The Detroit News

The booster club for the South Lyon High School football team has canceled a fundraising dinner where organizers were set to raffle off the same model of weapon that was used in the mass shooting at a Parkland, Florida high school.

The original invitation for the South Lyon High School football boosters' club Wild Game dinner, where an AR-15 was set to be raffled off.

A flier advertising the "2nd Annual Wild Game Dinner," listed gun raffles among the attractions, including an "AR15," a semi-automatic high powered assault rifle that was used to kill 17 students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Wednesday. 

"Due to the recent tragic events earlier this week, the South Lyon Football Booster Organization has decided to cancel their second annual Wild Game Dinner," a statement on the booster organization's website said. "The sensitivity of the issue coupled with the untimely tragedy has led to the decision."

The decision came as some in the community, including students, voiced their displeasure with the gun raffle. 

Jeff Henson, head coach of the South Lyon varsity football team, said the choice to cancel was "100 percent my decision."

"We're extremely sensitive to everything that's going on," Henson said, noting the fliers went out about a month ago, prior to the shooting in Florida. "We will find another way. It was never our intention to offend people."

While Henson declined to share how much money last year's Wild Game Dinner brought in, he did say it was "significant." Last year's event also offered a gun raffle, as well as "crossbows," according to that flier. It did not specifically advertise any assault rifles up for grabs. 

Henson said he "didn't hear one complaint" about that event, which was held on Feb. 25, 2017 at the South Lyon VFW.

The AR-15 raffle, organizers said in the statement, was not intended to give offense, but to "generate funding for the football program by taking advantage of the vast amount of sportsmen in the area. It was "not associated in any way with the school district...or the high school," nor would minors or students have been allowed to attend. 

And the guns to be raffled wouldn't have been handed out that day, the announcement explained. 

"We don't give out any guns at the event," Henson explained. 

"A winning raffle ticket would be issued to the winner, which would be presented at the winning business," the announcement reads. "The appropriate paperwork and background checks would be performed in accordance to state and federal laws."

According to the National Rifle Association's website, certain AR-15 assault rifles "are perfect for varmints and predator hunting, and with the proper ammunition can make a great deer rifle."

However, according to the Michigan Department of Natural Resources' website, it is illegal to hunt game with a semi-automatic shotgun or semi-automatic rifle that can hold more than six shells in the barrel and the magazine combined.

An AR-15 is typically sold with a magazine that holds 30 shells. 

Wild game dinners came about as the football program was "looking to do something different" from traditional school athletic fundraising, which Henson said is "lots of golf outings."

As for why the program cancelled the event altogether rather than just the gun raffle, Henson said "the raffles are what makes the money." Ticket prices pretty much only cover dinner and door prizes, he said. 

Lizzie Dilg, a senior at South Lyon High School, says she thought raffling off an AR-15 was "really ignorant, especially after the Florida shooting, to be raffling off a gun."

The 18-year-old said she had no problem with the event itself, and saw no reason it should've been cancelled altogether.

"They are listening," Dilg said, "but I don't think they had to cancel the entire thing — just don't raffle the gun."

Officials with the South Lyon Football Boosters could not immediately be reached. A request for comment from Superintendent Melissa Baker was also not returned.

On Thursday, one day after the Parkland shooting, Baker wrote an open letter to the South Lyon community, touting the school district's preparedness measures, and asking people to speak up if they see something suspicious.

"(We) cannot keep our schools safe without the help and support of our entire community," Baker wrote. "We urge you to learn about the warning signs connected with school shooters...they include violent fantasies, anger problems, fascination with weapons, being a loner..."

Tickets for the 21-and-up event scheduled for March 1 at the Whitmore Lake Golf Links ran for $85 each or $660 for an eight-seat table, according to the flier. It is unclear how much money the football team will miss out on due to the cancellation. 


A Missouri youth baseball team is moving ahead with a raffle of an AR-15 rifle despite criticism it received following the Florida shooting.