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AR-15 Raffle For Firefighters Sparks Outcry

CAMERON PARK (CBS13) -- A group of Cameron Park moms is upset after attending a fundraiser for firefighters where an AR-15 rifle was the main raffle prize. They say the timing was insensitive after the deadly Florida school shootings.

"I was devastated. I felt ill. I felt I couldn't stay and support the event any longer," said Nancy Lugo. "It hadn't even been a week, the families were still grieving, and we are seeing that same type of weapon being offered as a prize."

The same sentiments expressed by resident Allison Merrill.

"I had no idea they were going to be auctioning off military-style assault rifles. I would have never come and supported this event had I known," she said.

The ladies were given a refund and promptly left the event, but not before confronting the fire chief.

"He listened and heard my feelings on it and he apologized and said he could see why it was insensitive for them to be auctioning that off," Merrill said.

The annual crab feed fundraiser was held at the Cameron Park Community Center where the American Flag flag is at half-staff in honor of the shooting victims. The event is put on by the Cameron Park Firefighters Association. The money raised goes to support the Explorer and Residents programs for Cal Fire. Fire officials say the event is popular with hunters and outdoorsman in the area.

"The people involved are following the letter of the law," said Deputy Chief Scott McLean with Cal Fire.

When asked if the firefighters discussed or considered an alternative raffle prize this year, he said, "I can't address that at this time it happened on such short notice," but added the event had been planned for quite some time.

Upset residents, however, said organizers made last-minute changes to seating arrangements and other details so changing the raffle prize this year shouldn't have been an issue.

They say they have the utmost respect for the work of first responders but say in this case  - in light of recent events - the rifle raffle was in poor taste.

"As a teacher and as a mom, our children deserve for us to speak up for them," said Natalia Tirona.

"To have our first responders be the ones kind of offering a military-style assault rifle as a prize putting that out into our community, especially right now, it was appalling," Merrill said.

Fire officials say these types of rifles are raffled off each year at this fundraiser, so it's not a new practice. Fire officials say the weapons will first be taken to a gun shop for the waiting required waiting period and background check before being handed over to the winners.

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