Gunning for God: Troy, N.Y. pastor to hold church raffle draw for AR-15-type rifle
An upstate pastor is planning to give away an unholy raffle prize at an upcoming service: an AR-15 assault rifle.
“We’re honoring gun owners and hunters,” the Rev. John Koletas, pastor of Grace Baptist Church in Troy, told the Daily News. “And we’re being a blessing and a help to people who have been attacked, viciously attacked, by socialists and anti-Christian people — the politicians and the media.”
In a bid to lure as many gun lovers as possible to his church, Koletas even rolled out a provocative flier advertising the high-powered giveaway.
“My peace I give unto you . . . John 14:27,” blares the flier, which includes a photo of the deadly weapon under the headline: “Win a FREE AR-15. “
“Does the Bible defend my right to bear arms?” it adds.
Shocked pastors at nearby churches refused to lend their blessings to the bizarre event, which glamorizes the type of weapon used to slaughter 20 children and six staff members at Sandy Hook Elementary School on Dec. 14, 2012.
“I think it’s sending the wrong message entirely,” said the Rev. Willie Bacote, a pastor of Missing Link AME Zion Church in Troy and a prominent anti-gun advocate.
“We promulgate the gospel as peacemakers. We’re not people who give away guns,” he said. “Even the Bible teaches us to turn the other cheek.”
Koletas, 56, pointed out that the March 23 raffle is free and insisted he’s following God’s will in giving away a deadly weapon.
“It may be foreign to most city dwellers. It may seem controversial to people who don’t read their Bibles,” added Koletas, seated inside his two-story Melrose home with a chicken coop out back.
Koletas emphasized that the version he’s giving away will not include a pistol grip, which makes it legal to own in New York.
Assemblyman Steve McLaughlin, who is slated to be a featured guest at the event, said he doesn’t understand the fuss.
McLaughlin noted that the lucky winner will have to go through the same background check to obtain the $700 weapon as someone who purchases it at a gun shop.
“It’s not like the winner’s going to walk out of the church with this firearm,” said McLaughlin (R-Schaghticoke).
“This is something Gov. Cuomo should applaud. These are law-abiding people, churchgoing people, and it complies with” his gun control legislation known as the SAFE Act.
The weapon, a Smith & Wesson M&P semiautomatic rifle, the gunmaker’s version of the AR-15, is being donated to the church by a local gun shop.
“The pastor is a customer of ours and we want to support and promote any kind of Second Amendment activity,” Brian Olesen, owner of Oakwood Trading Post, told the Times-Union of Albany.
The winner of the raffle must be at least 18, undergo an FBI background check and meet all state and federal laws before the gun is handed over, Olesen added.
This isn’t the first time Koletas has generated controversy.
The pastor was arrested seven times by Troy police in 1989 and 1990 on disorderly conduct charges for loud and incessant street-corner preaching.
But all charges against him were dropped or dismissed, according to the Times-Union. He sued the city of Troy for false arrest — seeking $485,000 — but lost, the paper reported.
The AR-15, which fires roughly 800 rounds per minute, was a weapon of choice for Newtown school shooter Adam Lanza and Colorado theater gunman James Holmes.