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Month-long gun raffle raises funds for Durham fire department, sparks criticism

Thirty guns, some semi-automatic, are being raffled off to raise money for the Durham Fire Department this November, in what's become a popular tradition.

DURHAM (WGME) -- Thirty guns, some semi-automatic, are being raffled off to raise money for the Durham Fire Department this November, in what's become a popular tradition.

The idea for "30 guns in 30 days" came from another fire department, and officials in the rural community say it's been wildly successful. About 1,300 tickets have been sold so far this year.

"Very popular," said Alisha St. Pierre, a cashier at the Durham Get & Go. "We sell tons and tons and people look forward to it every year."

The anticipation builds for months.

"It's kind of like the lottery, so they play to win and when they win, they're really excited," St. Pierre said.

Thirty guns are raffled off over 30 days.

"We advertise 3,000 tickets. They're a $20 donation," said Deputy Fire Chief Keith Russell.

Russell said it can raise as much as $10,000 for the department every year.

"We've bought a lot of equipment that the town wouldn't necessarily have bought us, and we also resurrected Durham's first fire truck with the money," Russell said.

The prizes are appealing, he said, and allow them to net some funds.

"You can get 30 of them fairly inexpensive and get your money back," said Russell.

Geoff Bickford, executive director of the Maine Gun Safety Coalition, said these raffles are a growing trend.

"It's particularly troubling when it's a group of first responders," Bickford said.

The flier displays shotguns, handguns and rifles, he said, some of them semi-automatic, which can fire rapidly and have made headlines after being used in several mass shootings.

"We understand the need to raise these funds, but there just has to be a better way than giving away firearms to the public," Bickford said.

Russell said they work with Johnson's Sporting Goods to distribute the guns responsibly. Every winner has to pass a federal background check.

"Guns happen to be what you win," said Russell. "But it's more about raising money for what we need at the fire department."

Winners will be picked daily now through November 30. Tickets are available until the very end.

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