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Build your own AR-15 event in Michigan generates ire, support

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By ANNA GILES, WWMT

MARSHALL, Mich. (WWMT) - A build your own AR-15 rifle class in Marshall sparked heated debate over gun control Tuesday after roughly a dozen protestors showed up as the class got started.

The class has been held at the VFW for the last three years but got extra attention this year because of how much the AR-15 rifle has been in the media.

There was a class, a protest, and a few people in between who hoped this all led to helpful dialogue.

Divided by the main road through Marshall, there were men dressed in camouflage and a group of impromptu activists sporting anti-gun signs.

All the buzz was sparked by an event just yards away. Roughly 60 people gathered inside the VFW to learn about assembling an AR-15 rifle.

Chris Walden, the owner of Walden's Firearms, said, "They just enjoy shooting as a hobby or a sport, much like playing basketball or golf."

Walden said this the most attention his class has ever gotten.

Each participant has the opportunity to build an AR-15 and must complete a federal background check.

Walden said, "This is an opportunity for Americans to exercise their Second Amendment right, to help those who are protesting this -- [voicing] their First Amendment right -- across the street."

Bill Thick, the VFW post commander, said, "Gun owners are the most law-abiding segment of America, period."

The event is far from something Pam Duame and Pat Conley would call a hobby.

Daume said, “I think the event is disgusting. It's a slap in the face to all the children who have died."

Jeff Wilson, a protestor, said, "AR-15s have been used in the five most deadly shootings in the U.S. in recent history."

Despite a tough exterior, Joe Caringi just wanted to see a little bit of peacemaking and was asked by the VFW to help with security.

Caringi said, “I wanted to join them. I wanted to take my chair and go sit with them and just mind my own business."

Police advised against that, but Caringi was able to entertain at least one person who ventured across the street to listen.

Police did stop by the VFW on Tuesday to make sure things stayed calm and orderly.

Those hosting the class say they place a special emphasis on safety and that anyone who builds an AR-15 must pass a federal background check.

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