The recent raffling of a (California-legal) AR15 by the Cameron Park Fire Department ended up ruffling the feathers of several soccer moms, who felt threatened and offended by the choice of prize.
The semi-automatic rifle (which is heavily modified and functionally inferior to similar rifles sold outside of the gun control-heavy state of California) was one of at least two firearms auctioned off at the annual crab feed fundraiser, which raises money for Cal Fire Explorers and Residents programs in the area.
Several mothers became emotionally distraught upon learning about the grand prize, with a few claiming the timing was simply too close to the recent shooting in Parkland, Florida.
“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 weapon, while similar, is heavily modified to comply with strict California laws- which many firearm experts feel makes the rifle rather cumbersome to use.
“I had no idea they were going to be auctioning off military-style assault rifles,” Allison Merrill told CBS 13. “I would have never come and supported this event had I known.”
However, the rifle in question was not an “assault rifle,” as the term applies only to select-fire weapons capable of either burst or automatic-fire, unlike the semi-automatic AR15.
The women were promptly refunded their $45 tickets and were permitted to speak with the CPFD’s 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.
Cal Fire Deputy Chief Scott McLean added that the entire event was completely within the confines of the law and that rifles are regularly raffled off at the event, which takes place annually. In addition, the winner would have to undergo a background check before taking possession of the rifle.
“The people involved are following the letter of the law,” said Deputy Chief McLean.
Still, for people like Merrill, it was worth raising a fuss about.
“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.
According to fire officials, the event is popular with sportsmen, hunters and outdoorsmen in the area.