(Image: Huntsville Stars Facebook page)
The promotions that minor league teams use to draw fans are frequently a source of wonder and bemusement. Next month, the Phillies AAA team will give away a free funeral. The Brewers AA team, the Huntsville Stars, had a promotion scheduled for tonight that would have been much more rewarding than complimentary remembrance services – a gun raffle sponsored by a pawn shop.
Even though no actual guns would have been given away tonight, the Stars’ promotion generated national publicity, not all of it overwhelmingly positive. The Stars subsequently announced the gun raffle was off, although it appears card-carrying NRA members still get free admission tonight. Of course, there will be fireworks.
Even if you are a gun enthusiast, it’s easy to see why this promotion was a bad idea. Gun raffles are probably not controversial in Huntsville, but the Stars are part of a national organization and an international sport. A minor league baseball game is not an appropriate venue for partisan political content. When’s the last time you heard someone say, “You know what baseball’s problem is? Not enough politics.” Cancelling the gun raffle was the proper decision, and no reasonable person should waste any outrage on the matter.
That being said, it’s kind of a shame, because the guns were pretty cool and winning one of them would have been a great deal. It’s also a shame that plenty of unreasonable people are willing to get good and mad about an ill-advised marketing ploy. USA Today columnist Christine Brennan called the gun raffle “reckless, reprehensible, and completely unacceptable.” Now that’s just silly.
The three guns advertised by the Stars were a Ruger American with a scope, a Ruger 22-45 MKIII, and a Ruger 10-22-TD, all of which are very popular models. The 22-25 MKIII and 10-22-TD are both 22 caliber firearms, typically used for target shooting, or sending small animals (e.g., gophers, squirrels) to their reward. They are not defensive weapons. I wouldn’t say 22 calibers are “safe” but they are relatively non-threatening. Shooting a 22 is like riding a bicycle – sure, there’s a chance of serious injury, but only if you are remarkably irresponsible and not observing very basic safety precautions.
The Ruger American is a deer hunting rifle that most likely would use .308 ammo. To win that in a raffle (with a scope, no less) would be a great story tell all your friends.
If anyone had won those raffles, they would have bought the guns from the sponsor, Larry’s Pistol and Pawn, where they would have been subject to the usual background checks. It would not have been reckless, but it’s still for the best that it won’t happen. At least Brewers fans can hope the publicity generates a decent turnout for the Stars tonight. Given the poor state of the Brewers minor league system, they need all the revenue they can get.