NEWPORT, N.H. (AP) — The New Hampshire Association of Chiefs of Police plans to give away 31 firearms, including several semi-automatic weapons, in a raffle to raise money for a youth training academy.

The chiefs’ association said it’s selling 1,000 tickets for $30 each to anyone 18 or older hoping to win “some of today’s most popular N.H.-made sporting firearms” during the May raffle.

The raffle is planned as a national debate heats up over whether to restrict citizens’ access to firearms, especially semi-automatic weapons commonly used in mass shootings, following the Dec. 14 school shootings in Newtown, Conn.

A state legislator says the raffle comes at the wrong time.

“It’s amazing they can be so insensitive, when this country is trying to grapple with (Newtown) and trying to prevent it,” Rep. Sharon Nordgren, D- Hanover, told the Valley News in West Lebanon. “You would hope there would be some sensitivity of what the country is going through, whether they agree on gun control or not.”

Washington police Chief Steven Marshall, who runs the New Hampshire Police Cadet Training Academy, said he understands some gun control advocates may be uncomfortable with the raffle. But he said the association is following the law and raising money for a good cause. The raffle was organized before the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in which 26 people died, Marshall added.

The New Hampshire Police Cadet Training Academy is a live-in, weeklong program that draws roughly 100 youths every year and teaches an array of skills.

A local gun shop, along with gun manufacturers Sturm, Ruger and Co. of Newport, and Sig Sauer Inc., which has its U.S. headquarters in Exeter, are partners in the event.

Copyright 2013 The Associated Press.

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