Charities selling raffle tickets for a chance to win a firearm are no longer welcome in front of Tractor Supply.
In answer to a customer complaint earlier this month, the store's corporate office banned all raffles awarding firearms as prizes.
In the wake of several mass shootings in the past several months – two in Texas – that left dozens dead and dozens more wounded, many private businesses have restructured their firearms policies.
Most recently, Walmart, the world's largest retailer, announced they would stop carrying pistol ammunition, and certain long-barrel ammunition commonly associated with assault rifles like AK-47's and AR-15's.
Many Americans, fed up with seemingly constant reports of mass shootings across the country, are making themselves heard by speaking to, and perhaps pressuring, retail establishments.
Boycotts, for instance, have been an effective tool of the public for centuries.
“The Tractor Supply manager has always been super nice,” Master Mason James Ashley told the Herald-Press Friday. “I'm sure he was caught between a rock and a hard place when corporate made their ruling.”
Jennifer Key, a 44-year-old customer service agent said the choice, ultimately, is up to Tractor Supply, not its customers. She said the free-market – whether customers choose to shop at the store – should speak for the public.
“Frankly, I'm surprised Tractor Supply made that call [to ban firearm raffles],” she said. “But, they're a private company, and it's their call to make.”
Last year, three high school students – one each from Palestine, Westwood, and Neches High Schools – won $1,000 scholarships from Palestine's Masonic Temple, Lodge 31.
The scholarship money came from raffle tickets sold outside storefronts like Tractor Supply. This year's prize: a Henry Golden Boy .22 caliber rifle.
“It's a trophy rifle, not a so-called assault weapon,” Ashley's father, Tom Ashley, also a Master Mason told the Herald-Press. “Still, someone called in a complaint to their headquarters, and corporate disallowed it.”
Ashley said the lodge was hoping to increase the award to $1,500 this year. Having lost one of their ticket-selling outlets, however, might put that plan in jeopardy.
Also on the sidewalk when the Masons were told to leave was Henry Kitchens of the Vietnam Veterans of America, Post 991. The VVA was also raffling off firearms; a .308 rifle, and a 9mm handgun.
Kitchens, whose organization provided six $1,000 scholarships to local students last year through raffle proceeds, was also told to leave.
“I don't hold anything against Tractor Supply,” Kitchens told the Herald-Press. “They've always been good to us. It's a shame that one person's complaint can disenfranchise everyone else, however.”
Kitchens and Ashley, who have held similar raffles for years, said they'd feel better if Tractor Supply, like Walmart, had a policy restricting all fund-raising, rather than singling out a few.
“When Walmart said we could no longer use their storefront, they told us it was for everybody,” Ashley said. “Even the Girl Scouts can't sell cookies there anymore. I can understand that; what's fair for one should be fair for all.”
Palestine resident Paul Temple agreed with Ashley.
“I personally think that if you don't like the prize for a raffle, then don't buy the ticket,” Temple, 44, told the Herald-Press. “As far as tractor supply saying you can't sell due to the prize being a gun, then I think the rule should apply to all.”
Temple, a field-service technician, said corporations should represent, and stand up for, the wants of the majority of their customers.
“That is why our country is in the shape it's in now,” he said. “We try to please the few that are screaming loudly, but we don't listen to those who quietly like the way things are, even if they're in the majority.”
Kenneth Rollins, 62, who retired from Walmart earlier this year said, for him, the answer is simple.
“Tractor Supply just lost a customer,” he said.
Ashley said the Masons will still be setting up raffle ticket booths at Brookshire's, Braly's Hardware, McCoy's Building Supplies, and Lowe's.
Charles E. Dickens Jewelers of Palestine has donated a free engraving to whomever wins the rifle.
Ticket booths for the VVA raffle can be found at Lowe's, local gun shows, and at VVA fundraisers, Kitchens said.
Winners of either contest must pass federal background checks before prizes are awarded. In the event a winner fails the background check, another winner is chosen at random.
McKenzie Goldman, spokesperson for Tractor Supply, declined to comment.