West Fargo Hockey Association board member and raffle organizer Mike Prochnow said the group's gun raffle was planned months before the Connecticut tragedy, though he acknowledged its "unfortunate timing."
Gun raffles are common in North Dakota, but one aimed at raising money for a youth hockey association is drawing national attention in the wake of a shooting at a school in Newtown, Conn.
The Dec. 14 shooting rampage that killed 20 first-graders and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School sparked a nationwide debate about gun control. West Fargo Hockey Association board member and raffle organizer Mike Prochnow said the group's gun raffle was planned months before the Connecticut tragedy, though he acknowledged its "unfortunate timing."
"I knew it was going to blow up, but I didn't think it would blow up to this magnitude," he told WDAY-TV. "We've gotten calls from CNN, CBS radio, we're in Sports Illustrated."
The association is raffling off 4,000 tickets for 200 weapons, including rifles and shotguns — some of them semi-automatics — hoping to raise $90,000. The drawing is March 15.
Association member Cal Helgeson told KVLY-TV that the list of weapons includes hard-to-find guns, and that people from around the country have bought tickets, including "as far away as Las Vegas."
The outcry has some West Fargo residents shaking their heads.
"Maybe the organization should have considered the timing of their giant gun raffle," Teresa Blackcloud told WDAY-TV.
Others say North Dakota, with its rich hunting heritage, has a different attitude about guns and there is nothing wrong with the raffle, especially since many of the youth hockey players it supports also are hunters.
"Our youth, they start shooting guns at 7 and 8 years old. They go to hunter safety (courses)," Tillman Sande told WDAY-TV.
"It's a different world out here," Chad Bergan told the station.