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Strong reactions after sheriff's office announces AR-15 rifle to raise money for D.A.R.E

Dozens of people reacted to the Caldwell County Sheriff's Office's Facebook post announcing the raffle before it appeared to have been taken down.

LENOIR, N.C. — The Caldwell County Sheriff's Office received mixed reactions from people after it announced on Facebook it was raffling an AR-15 to raise money for the county's D.A.R.E. program.

The post, which appeared to have been taken down Tuesday afternoon after less than 24 hours online, had been reacted, commented and shared by dozens of Facebook users.

The sheriff's office said in the post it would give away a custom-built AR-15 and a Henry Lever Action .22 long rifle to two people, who must possess either a purchase permit or a concealed handgun permit.

The raffle drew three main reactions: support for the giveaway, criticism of the giveaway or criticism of the D.A.R.E. program.

NBC Charlotte reached out to Sheriff Alan Jones and the captain overseeing the D.A.R.E. program about the raffle and whether it will still happen after the original Facebook post disappeared.

We received this statement on Thursday:

The Caldwell County DARE program, unfortunately, is not entirely publicly funded.  The members of the Caldwell County Sheriff’s Office and The Lenoir Police Department feel very strongly about the need to have a very active DARE Program.  The DARE Program serves a vital role in our community to develop relationships with children in schools and to express the dangers that illegal drugs pose to the public and our children.  Caldwell County DARE hosts various fundraisers in order to obtain the funds needed to operate the DARE Program.  Members in the DARE Program are always looking for new and innovative ways of raising money to keep our DARE Program successful.  As part of this year’s fundraiser, two rifles have been donated to be raffled.  The proceeds of the raffle are going to further fund this year’s DARE Program.  Gun raffles in Caldwell County are used often for fundraising based on the number of gun owners that reside within Caldwell County.  Currently, there are 7,400 Concealed Weapon Permit holders in Caldwell County and last year 2183 gun purchase permits were issued.

Once the drawing is held the winners of the rifles will be presented with a Certificate indicating which rifle was won along with the name of the person that won the rifle.  The winner at that point will be required to go to the Federally Licensed Firearm Dealer to claim the firearm.  In addition to a standard background check that is conducted when a rifle is purchased, the Caldwell County DARE program will be requiring the winner of the rifles to also obtain a Gun Purchase permit prior to claiming the rifle at the Federal Firearms Dealer.  A gun purchase permit currently is not required when purchasing a rifle but will be required to claim the rifles that will be raffled.

We are aware that there are some individuals that are unhappy with the fact that The Caldwell County DARE Program will be raffling firearms; however, the goal of the raffle is to raise money that will benefit this worthy program in continuing to combat drug addiction and abuse.  The Caldwell County DARE Program will continue to strive to divert children from using illegal drugs and alcohol.  The shareholders of this program will examine the fundraising methods that are utilized in the future.

"In addition to having full-time deputies in every school, I have always supported the DARE program and feel that DARE is important in changing the lives of children in this county. During my time as sheriff, we have expanded the DARE Program from 2 to 14 DARE officers that are certified and will continue to use all resources available to beat drug usage in this county,” said Sheriff Alan C. Jones.

The Facebook post was also republished.