Volunteer Fire Department Raffles AR-15s as Donations Fall During Pandemic

A volunteer fire department in Pennsylvania that is in desperate need of funds has come up with a surprising way to raise money in the pandemic—raffling AR-15 weapons.

Lower Burrell Volunteer Fire Company No. 1 (Kinloch) said it was down about $100,000 in donations this year because COVID restrictions prevented it from holding fundraising events.

However, over the past two months the department has been offering people the chance to enter raffles and win semiautomatic rifles.

According to The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, the raffles are advertised on Facebook and usually bring in about $1000. Tickets tend to sell out in about 12 hours.

"Our fundraising has pretty much been cut down to the bare minimum," Shane Morris, Lower Burrell assistant fire chief, told local station WPXI.

"We're not allowed to do fish fries. It's hard for us to do bingos. With the restrictions, we can only fit half the capacity of what we're allowed, so it's kind of pointless to even try to do one of those," Morris said.

‼️ Sold Out‼️$20. Chance... Get yours Now‼️The winner will receive a Radical Firearm FR-16 5.56caliber AR-15 gun with a 16 inch barrel. Gun will include sights and 2- 30 round Magazines. Gun...

Morris said the raffles were an ideal way to raise funds virtually as the $20 tickets are purchased online.

"There's no meeting people once it's sold. They go to the distributor and they pick it up," Morris said.

Once the winner has been named, they have to meet federal requirements and pass a background check in order to receive the firearm.

Morris said the guns were chosen because they were more likely to attract interest and therefore raise more money.

"A lot of other things are hard to come by. Everyone's just buying everything for Christmas. We tried doing a tool set, and just finding one tool set right now is difficult, so guns seemed to be the best way to go," Morris said.

"They are the most popular gun out there now and they sell out quickly," Kinloch Chief Ted Hereda told The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. "It really is good fundraising. With COVID, we don't have many ways to raise funds."

Schools and children's baseball teams have held similar raffles in the past.

Jerry Ozog, executive director of the Pennsylvania Fire and Emergency Services Institute, said raffling of guns was nothing new and volunteer departments needed to be "entrepreneurial to survive these days." He added that one department offered an old fire truck as a prize, raising more money through ticket sales than if it had been sold on the market.

"It's a philosophical choice," Ozog told The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. "Another department might raffle off purses and cars."

Morris spoke of the importance of these raffles to help fund volunteer departments.

"If you don't have a fire department, it could be catastrophic to your family," he said.

The Lower Burrell Volunteer Fire Company No. 1 (Kinloch) has been contacted for further comment.

AR-15 rifles
File photo of AR-15s and other weapons. The Lower Burrell Volunteer Fire Company No. 1 (Kinloch) in Pennsylvania has been raffling AR-15 semiautomatic rifles to raise money in the pandemic. Spencer Platt/Getty