The pastor of an upstate New York Baptist church plans to raffle off a rifle during a Sunday service later this month, saying giving away the weapon is "the right thing to do."
The Rev. John Koletas of the Grace Baptist Church in Troy told local media that he's showing support for Second Amendment rights, gun owners and hunters by giving away the brand-new Smith & Wesson M&P semi-automatic rifle, a weapon similar to the Bushmaster rifle used to kill 20 children and six staff members at Newtown, Conn.'s Sandy Hook Elementary School in December 2012.
"I'm just trying to be a blessing and a help to the gun owners and the hunters and give away a free AR-15," he told the Times Union of Albany. "It's the right thing to do."
A typical AR-15-type rifle is now illegal in New York. The $700 rifle being given away at the March 23 raffle has been modified — its pistol grip removed — so that it complies with New York's gun laws, according to Brian Olesen, a gun shop owner who's donating the weapon.
The raffle winner must be at least 18, undergo an FBI background check and meet all state and federal laws, Olesen said.
The rifle raffle has sparked outrage among some of the area's other clergy members, including a pastor who has worked to get guns off the streets of nearby Albany.
"There's no way we should be in a church saying we're going to be giving away a weapon that could end up in the wrong hands," Charlie Muller of the Victory Christian Church told WRGB-TV.