The Janesville police officers union is courting controversy by raffling an AR-15, the same kind of weapon used in the Parkland, Fla., school shooting and other well-publicized attacks. Even die-hard Second Amendment defenders should recognize the awkward image created by police officers making a prize out of a weapon that’s become the focus of a student movement to reduce gun violence.

“Tone deaf” is how David Chipman, a former agent for the Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, described the AR-15’s inclusion. Union officials shouldn’t be surprised the AR-15 has overshadowed the whole point of the raffle, which is to help two cancer patients, a 3-year-old and a former state Department of Corrections agent.

It’s a worthy cause, but the union has also put Police Chief Dave Moore in the difficult position of having to make clear that his department has nothing to do with the raffle and that it didn’t contribute the AR-15.

The weapon will come from a legitimate firearms dealer. Union spokesman Justin Stubbendick said the winner must undergo a background check to claim the rifle. That’s good to know, but we wouldn’t expect anything less. It stands to reason that the winner must be able to legally own a gun.

The raffle, slated for May 12, also includes a shotgun and a handgun, and limiting the prizes to these weapons would have been wise. Neither weapon has been targeted by post-Parkland protests, and even many gun-control advocates recognize the utility of a handgun (self-defense) and a shotgun (hunting).

Stubbendick explained that the raffle had been set up before the Parkland shooting, though massacres involving semi-automatic rifles at a Las Vegas concert and a Texas church happened last year. Would raffle participants have made a fuss about swapping the AR-15 for a different, less controversial prize? If the motivation for selling raffle tickets is to help two cancer patients, sensible people wouldn’t have complained about losing out on a chance to win an AR-15. If nothing else, the union could have awarded a gift certificate or cash for the same value of an AR-15, and the winner could have bought one.

Ironically, publicity surrounding this raffle is likely to increase ticket sales among some gun-rights enthusiasts, who’ve filled social media with requests: “Where can I buy tickets?” Union organizers might interpret their enthusiasm as a positive thing, but such eagerness is more about making a political statement than helping two cancer patients.

FROM AN EDITORIAL IN THE JANESVILLE (WIS.) GAZETTE