A youth basketball team in Missouri decided to continue with a raffle featuring an AR-15, similar to the gun reportedly used in the mass shooting at a high school where 17 people were killed last week.

The third-grade team’s coach Coach Levi Patterson said the school approved the event before Thursday’s shooting in Parkland, Florida, the Associated Press reported.

Levi told the Kansas City Star that the school had been raffling off guns for years. The team, comprised of ages seven to nine, usually sold tickets for the event.

The prized weapon, provided by one of the parents who owned a gun store, could only be handed over after the winner passed a background check.

"Gun raffles have been going on for years," Patterson said in response to naysayers on Facebook. "Evil has and will always exist. Our hearts break for those involved, and we do not take that lightly."

Patterson said he hoped to turn the raffle into a "positive thing" after "getting the hate," according to the Kansas City Star.

"I applaud them for standing up for what they believe in," Patterson told the Kansas Star. "I just think they have feelings to this specific type of gun (that are) different than people around here do."

Patterson said the raffle received support despite concerns stemming from the Florida shooting that killed 17 and several injured others.

The suspect, identified as 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz, reportedly opened fire with a weapon believed to an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. 

The violence also left 14 wounded and five people with life-threatening injuries, CNN reported.

AR-15 The AR in “AR-15” rifle stands for ArmaLite rifle. Photo: Getty Images