York Fire Department auctioning off an AR-15. It’s legal. Officials point to SC law.

York Fire Department auctioning off an AR-15. It’s legal. Officials point to SC law.
A poster for the Bethany Santiago Volunteer Fire Department raffle. (Source: Bethany Santiago Volunteer Fire Department)

YORK, S.C. (The Rock Hill Herald) - The Bethany Santiago Volunteer Fire Department in York, SC, is holding a fundraising raffle. The prize is an AR-15. The winner also will receive 500 rounds of ammunition.

Two hundred tickets are available. The raffle will continue until all the tickets are sold, a spokesperson from the Fire Department confirmed. He declined to comment on why this prize was chosen.

No one has voiced concern about a rifle as a prize. The York County Sheriff and S.C. attorney general’s office referred The Herald to the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division. A spokesperson for SLED said they rely on S.C. laws.

State law shows anyone over the age of 21 can own a gun in South Carolina, except if they have been convicted of a felony or a violent crime. You need a permit only if you carry a handgun or to carry a concealed weapon.

The Outdoor Shop in York is providing the rifle to be auctioned. Chris Hybarger, owner of The Outdoor Shop, is a volunteer fire-fighter at a nearby fire department.

He wanted to get involved because he wanted to support the neighboring fire department, he said.

“It’s how they survive, off fundraising from the public,” he said.

The Outdoor Shop will be responsible for making sure the winner is legally allowed to carry a gun, a spokesperson for the Fire Department said.

The rifle being auctioned is a Palmetto State Armory M4 Carbide 5.56 AR-15 Rifle. That means it holds 5.56 mm rounds - “a small intermediate cartridge, half-way between a hand gun or a hunting rifle,” explained Steven Howards, an attorney with American Firearms & Munitions Consulting. These rounds are advantageous for hunting deer and feral pigs, he said.

M-4 designates the short barrel of the gun. This helps the rifle meet federal regulations while still mimicking a military weapon, he said.

“People want a semi-automatic version of what our soldiers have, and (AR-15s) comply with the federal firearms laws. Especially with this pandemic panic, people are buying guns and ammo just as fast as they can,” Howards said.

People typically purchase these weapons for hunting and home defense, he said.

“When you encounter feral pigs, AK47s and AR-15s are really the weapon of choice. A lot of people use it for home defense, and for good reason,” he said. “In many ways, they’re safer than a hand gun.”

The rounds in an AR-15 have less of a chance of going through a wall and injuring bystanders, he said.