It’s the perfect irony: an upstate New York church is giving new meaning to the biblical passage ‘My peace I give unto you’, by giving away a piece. The Grace Baptist Church in Troy, a few hours north of Manhattan, will be gifting an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle later this month during an event honoring hunters and gun owners. ‘Win a Free AR-15’ is the actual slogan being displayed on the church website, followed by the line from the New Testament.
A raffle will be conducted on the church premises on March 23, and the winning ticket will receive the AR-15 modified for sale in New York State. The special service on that day will be dedicated to ‘hunters and gun owners who have been so viciously attacked by the antichristian socialist media and antichristian socialist politicians the last few years’. New York Assemblyman Steve McLaughlin is scheduled to speak at the service. He confirmed to the media that the event did comply with the state’s gun laws. He even said that many New York pastors upstate carry guns, but they are law-abiding, church-going citizens.
The church pastor, John Koletas, defended the event in a letter to his congregation: “Our country was built with the King James Bible and the gun,” he wrote. “Does the Bible need to defend my right to keep and bear arms?” Pastor Michael Collins of Brunswick Baptist Church in Troy also defended the event. “It is not something that we would do, but we have plenty of gun owners in the church, and it is our constitutional right to do so,” he said. “It is not uncommon for churches to host outdoorsman events and give away guns.”
In order to win the rifle, the raffle participants need to be over 18 years of age, have a driver’s license and pass a background check. Oakwood Trading Post, the store that sold the gun to the church, will conduct the check on the winner before releasing the rifle from its custody. The church reserves the right to disqualify participants if they are found to be of ‘questionable character’.
The $700 AR-15 has a 10-round magazine capacity. The trigger needs to be activated for every shot. This is the same rifle model that gunman Adam Lanza used to kill first-graders and six school staff members at Sandy Hook Elementary in 2012. The pastor and other church members were not available to comment on this.