An AR-15 rifle - with a big boost from a controversy - has helped the Chester County Sheriff's Department raise more than $20,000 for its K9 unit.

But the man who won the rifle in a raffle said it is unlikely a single shot will ever be fired from his prize.

Mike Ivey, who has owned an auto-repair shop in West Chester for 27 years, said he entered the raffle after hearing about it on a TV news program. And he's so proud of his prize that he plans to frame it and hang it on his wall, right next to his winning ticket.

"That gun will probably never, ever, ever be shot," he said, laughing.

The Sheriff's Department began selling $20 tickets for the raffle at a January charity dinner for hunters and law enforcement personnel. The raffle wasn't publicized - tickets could be purchased only through deputy sheriffs - and organizers were expecting to sell about 500.

Then word spread that the top prize was an AR-15 - identified by law enforcement officials as the primary weapon used in the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., in December.

Anti-gun-violence groups cried foul, contending that raffling off an AR-15 was insensitive and irresponsible.

"Until the publicity we had maybe sold 200 to 300 tickets - and that was since January," Sheriff Carolyn Bunny Welsh said.

The department ended up selling more than 1,000.

Welsh stressed that whoever won the rifle would be required to undergo two background checks: one from the Sheriff's Department and another at a licensed firearms dealer where they would claim their prize.

The drawing was held Monday. On Wednesday, Welsh said she was "very comfortable" with the fact that Ivey was the winner.

"He's a reputable businessman with a good background," she said.

Ivey said Wednesday that he had been contacted by some residents who expressed concern, but even more had called to congratulate him.

"I figured I have the right to bear arms, and they were giving the right to the general public to buy a raffle ticket," he said. "I was supporting the K-9 unit and the sheriffs at the same time."

Ivey has other guns that are kept locked in safes, and his house is "fully alarmed," he said. Once an avid hunter, he said he hasn't gone hunting since he was injured in a car accident last year.

"Don't ever underestimate a fast-moving Chevy over an AR-15," he said, laughing.

Anti-gun-violence advocates said that while they had reservations about the raffle, they were heartened by the fact that Welsh required Ivey to undergo a background check before announcing him as the winner.

"We hope that if this gentleman does decide to sell this gun at some point, that he would do a background check, too - and that a law would be passed to require it," said Shira Goodman, director of CeaseFire PA.

Still, she said it was inappropriate for the sheriff's office to raffle off a gun.

"If they're going to do a fund-raiser, we didn't want it to be through guns," she said. "It's just a whole different perspective of what you think law enforcement should be doing and how they should be raising money."

Proceeds from the raffle will help the county's six-dog K-9 unit pay for training and equipment, Welsh said.

She's not sure whether the department will feature guns in next year's raffle.

Ivey, for his part, said he was committed to gun safety and proud of his win.

"Guns don't kill people, people kill people," he said. "If you're allowed to own it, if you're a responsible person that keeps guns locked and secure and away from children, I would say, buy a raffle ticket - you can win."

Contact Aubrey Whelan at 610-313-8112, at awhelan@philly.com, or on Twitter at @aubreyjwhelan.