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AR-15 at Cameron Park Fire Department Auction Draws Criticism

 CAMERON PARK -- Allison Merrill and Nancy Lugo were part of a group at the Cameron Park Fire Department Crab Feed on Saturday night when they saw something being raffled off that they thought was in poor taste -- an AR-15.

The annual event is to benefit the Cameron Park Firefighters Association.

"He was encouraging people to come over and look at the AR-15, saying that it was going to go fast," Lugo said.

This year's crab feed was just days after officials say Nikolas Cruz used a similar weapon to kill 17 people at a high school in Florida.

"Poor taste, I would say," Lugo said. "That doesn't even describe it."

Merrill says she was shocked to see the rifle.

"It just felt extremely wrong," Merrill said.

Merrill and Lugo say they would not have gone to the event if they knew that gun was being raffled off. Both were given a refund and left.

Cal Fire, who has a contract agreement with the Cameron Park Fire Department, says guns have been raffled off at the event for the last 15 years -- though not necessarily an AR-15. The rifle was donated by a private civilian to help raise money for the Cameron Park Explorer's and Resident Firefighter programs, according to a statement from the Cameron Park Community Services District. The statement also says:

"District Board members and staff recognize that including guns in the raffle items, organized by the Cameron Park Fire Fighters Association, was insensitive in light of the recent mass shooting event in Florida and other places across the United States in past months and years. The District deeply apologizes for this insensitivity to the youth and families affected by this horrific event and other mass shootings."

On Monday night, the board of the Cameron Park Community Services District said they will be reviewing their policies. It remains to be seen if guns will no longer be allowed to be auctioned off at next year's event.

"I mean the kids in Florida are outraged and they're angry and they're talking, and the whole country is talking about this," Merrill said. "And it just felt so tone deaf that here we are in our community just giving this type of gun out as a prize."