Rifle going on display to raise money for boy

Thousands are expected in Eustis on Saturday for the city’s Fourth of July celebration.

A local business owner — who hopes to raise thousands of money to help a Lake County boy who’s battling cancer — thought it would be a perfect opportunity to sell raffle tickets.  But he had to fight city hall to do it, because his business is guns. 

Richard Pettis owns Central Florida Hydro-Dipping.  He customized a Ruger precision rifle to raffle off to raise money for Jay Ryon, who has been in the hospital since September.

“It’s a .308 all hyrdro-dipped in a real cool coyote pattern.  And it’s a turnkey ready to roll rifle,” Pettis said.

Jay’s aunt, Michelle Daniels, asked Pettis to help raise a little money to cheer Jay up.

“The money is for him to do whatever. He likes to do science projects at the hospital because that’s something he can do from his hospital bed,” Daniels said.

Pettis wanted to put the rifle — and a couple of others — on display at the Fourth of July festival to drum up sales.
But he soon found out city policy said his business was not welcome at community events.

“I think it’s ridiculous.  This is my business.  This is how I make money. I make money doing this to help other people as well,” Pettis said.

So, the fundraiser to help Jay battle cancer became a battle with city hall.

“We feel that there are many items — while legal—are not necessarily appropriate for certain kinds of events,” said Eustis City Manager Ron Neibert.

But Pettis and his supporters weren’t backing down and eventually the city attorney took a closer look at the law.

“After doing some research, we found out there’s a state statute prohibits local governments from enacting any restrictions on the sale of firearms,” Neibert said.

So, Pettis got the OK to put his work on display at the Fourth of July festival, but he said he doesn’t plan to be at city events often. 

“I’d rather be home watching my turkeys walk around in the back yard than sitting up there sweating with a bunch of guns that I have to bring home in the middle of the night and put in the safe.  This is about Team Jay,” he said.