By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Can Manteca Unified take a stand on gun raffles without it backfiring & generating political ammo?
gun raffle

The story spread like wildfire.

A starting running back on the school’s football team was in trouble,

He had brought a shotgun to school.

The senior had been called out of class first period by Bob Elkus, the principal.

The two walked out to the parking lot in front of the gym where the senior’s 1963 Chevy pickup was parked.

At that point, as the story goes, the football player was admonished by Mr. Elkus for leaving a shotgun in a rack in the cab.

The football player had gone dove hunting with some friends before school.

Apparently he didn’t have time to take the gun home, so he did what he thought was the next best thing and locked it in his pickup.

Mr. Elkus  had the senior unlock the pickup.

He then took the gun and told the senior that he could pick it up at the office after school.

Police were not called.

Nor were his parents.

There was no expulsion, suspension, or detention.

He was told not to do it again.

This did not happen in Montana.

It happened in California.

More precisely, it happened at Lincoln High in Lincoln, Placer County.

A school, one might add, where the main gym built in the 1950s had steel plates placed in one far wall for possible use as an indoor rifle range, although it was never used as such.

It was a time when the Lincoln Rifle Club had junior safety classes and competitive leagues.

They had two ranges.

One was an outdoor range by the clay pits just north of town.

The other was an indoor range built at McBean Park, Lincoln’s version of Woodward Park in Manteca and Mistlin Park in Ripon.

The indoor range was across from dance pavilion, swimming pool, and the Placer County Holy Ghost Association chapel.

It was right next to the biggest playground in town and across the way from the Little League diamonds as well as McBean Park Field, where Lincoln High football games were played in the left and center fields of a baseball field  that hosted semi-pro league games in the summer.

And if that wasn’t enough, just a mile away at the base of the Sierra foothills sat an abandoned Titan missile site that once held a rocket with a nuclear warhead.

Once the Air Force salvaged what it could and sold the property, it became a competitive shooting range that was designed to train as well as keep skills sharpened for law enforcement from police all the way up to FBI agents assigned to the Sacramento area.

The sound of gunfire was background noise during weekends when competitions took place at the former missile site.

The year the gun incident took place at Lincoln High was in 1971.

It might as well have been 20 light years ago.

Fast forward to today to Manteca.

It’s a different time.

The optics of guns and schools is not good today for obvious reasons.

That’s not saying people back in the 1950s or in 1971 were all “gun nuts” as some would disparagingly say today.

There really wasn’t a gun culture as it is perceived today.

Hunting culture, yes.

Equating manhood per se with guns, no.

Guns weren’t used to get respect when you were dissed.

Guns were respected.

That was then and this is now.

The now we live in is why some are more than uneasy when it comes to a group supporting schools raffling guns to raise money.

The right to own guns is a right just like free speech is right as spelled out in the respective Second and First Amendments.

And like all rights, neither are absolute.

But this isn’t about rights.

It’s about perceptions.

And because of the real carnage that has marred the last two generations involving schools and guns, that perception can’t be dismissed simply by noting law abiding people are not only conducting the raffles but buying the raffle tickets.

That said, there is a slippery slope should the school district — assuming they can legally do so — bar an independent group not operating under their auspices from doing something legal to raise money.

Should the board weigh in on all perceived deadly sins that are at the root of money sources?

Are donations raised through the sale of hard liquor at a dinner-dance suspect?

Should the district bar a school from accepting donations from legal cannabis stores required to share their profits through community benefit agreements?

 The big difference, of course, are alcohol and cannabis are not brought onto campuses to expressly kill students.

The queasiness about guns and schools is not one dimensional.

The late Evelyn Moore — a retired teacher who served on the Manteca Unified board — was adamantly opposed to the district establishing a school resource officer because she did not like the idea of guns on campus, period.  

Did such a position make sense given just five years prior to her stance and some 17 miles north of Manteca at Stockton’s Cleveland School in 1989 where five students were killed and 29 injured by a gunman?

That stood as the largest loss of life at a school that wasn’t a college via a mass shooting until Columbine in 1999.

The entire gun debate is messy.

Does the raffling of guns by a community non-profit to raise money for school sports programs designed to provide youth a healthy outlet and ideally understand concepts such as delayed gratification, teamwork, and respect constitute an ethical or moral sin?

It is doubtful if you asked that question in the mid-1950s or even as late as 1971, that very many people would agree.

It’s likely a different story today.

That said, is it worth the potential collateral damage for the school board to wade into the issue at all?

Rest assured, the school board taking a position on his one will have the same type of results as if they weighed on one side or the other of the Hamas-Israel War or openly advocated either Donald Trump or Joe Biden.

Still, you can see the point.

Guns + disturbed and/or impulsive teens + schools add up to a real problem we can’t ignore.

At the same time, any move the school district makes on this one besides making sure all laws as determined by the State of California are being adhered to is likely to provide political ammo that will do little, if anything, to address the real problem of kids killing kids in school using guns.

This column is the opinion of editor, Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinions of The Bulletin or 209 Multimedia. He can be reached at