Todd Starnes
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A youth baseball league in central Illinois is in desperate need of cash – so they’ve decided to auction off an AR-15 assault rifle.

Last year the Atwood-Hammond baseball league tried to raffle off half a hog. But they only raised $10 – and barely had enough to pay the local butcher.

So this year a local gun shop provided the league with a Rock River Arms Tactical Operator Two – and the response has been massive.

“My phone has been ringing off the hook,” said Charidy Bucher, co-owner of the Atwood Armory shop. “The response has been tremendous.”

Bucher told me her phone has been ringing since 4:30 a.m.

“People from out of state have been calling,” she said.

She said the winner of the rifle will also receive 260 rounds of ammunition.

“Ammo is just as hard to get as the firearms these days, unfortunately,” she said.

The towns of Atwood and Hammond are about 25 miles southwest of Champaign – where many residents invoke their Second Amendment rights.

“Most people in central Illinois like to go out and shoot with their families,” she told Fox News. “People are interested in preserving their rights to keep and bear arms.”

Steve McClain, who heads up the local youth baseball program, said there are two gun stores in the town of 1,500 people.

“We are the heart of this country,” he said. “And we have a very large portion of the community who own guns. We’re right next to an Amish community and many of them are gun owners – and they’re pacifists.”

But is it appropriate for a youth baseball team to raffle a weapon?

Absolutely, McClain said.

“Most of the people complaining don’t even understand what an AR-15 is,” he told Fox News. “They are misinformed.”

He said critics of the raffle are off base.

“The reason there is violence with guns is because of the person – not the gun,” he said. “A gun is not about violence. It’s how you use it. You can be violent with a knife. Does that mean we should ban all knives?”

A Little League spokesman told Fox News the Illinois team is not officially chartered with their organization.

“It’s not against the law,” the spokesman said, referring to the gun raffle. “But we certainly would not recommend one of our leagues do something like that.”

Little League said they do not tell their leagues how they should raise funds.

“Hopefully, they would use their best possible judgment,” the spokesman said.

Bucher said she has received some negative calls – but the majority has been supportive.

“Everything is perfectly legal,” she said. “We’re not just handing the gun out. Whoever wins still has to go through the proper legal channels.”

That mean whoever wins would have to go through a background check and have an Illinois Firearms Owner’s Identification card.

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Todd Starnes

Todd Starnes is the host of Fox News & Commentary – heard daily on 250+ radio stations. He’s also the author of “Dispatches From Bitter America.” To check out all of his work you can visit his website or follow him on Twitter @toddstarnes. In his spare time, Todd is active in his church, plays golf, follows SEC football, and eats barbecue. He lives in New York City.