Few subjects provoke a reaction by some in the electronic and print media business like the legal use and enjoyment of firearms by average American citizens for recreation and personal protection. And when someone has the audacity to combine firearms with another volatile subject for today's mainstream media—religion—well, it simply makes some editors and broadcasters berserk.
This week, Pastor John Koletas of the Grace Baptist Church in Troy, NY announced the church was planning a special service at which a modified and "New York Legal" Smith & Wesson M&P15 semi-automatic rifle would be given to one lucky parishioner attending the March 23 service. Pastor Koletas stressed that the firearm giveaway was neither a fundraising event nor a raffle, though those in attendance were welcome to make special contribution toward the cost of the rifle while worshiping that Sunday.
Without naming principals or specific legislation, the pastor made it clear the event was a reaction to the most restrictive firearms regulations in the country hastily pushed by New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo in 2013 and approved by lawmakers in January 2013, know as the New York SAFE Act.
"The sole purpose of this event is to be a help, a blessing and an encouragement to all gun owners and hunters who have been viciously attacked by the socialist and antichristian media and politicians," Pastor Koletas wrote on the church webpage.
Speaking at the March 23 service will be State Assemblyman Steve McLaughlin (R-Schaghticoke), who voted against the New York SAFE act and in the most recent election was endorsed by the National Rifle Association and the New York State Rifle and Pistol Association. Pastor Koletas said he has been contacted by many individuals who support the event wanting to purchase tickets, and he politely explained it's not a raffle.
"You may give whatever the Lord lays on your heart in the offering plate when it is passed or mail in your donation," he said.
Not surprisingly, many in the media, including the New York Daily News, labeled the church's planned event "bizarre."
"For the many, many favorable and supportive responses we have received, we want to thank you deeply for your support and encouragement," the pastor said.
To qualify, the recipient of the rifle must attend the morning service, be at least 18 years of age, have a legal driver's license and pass the background check. Grace Baptist Church reserves the right to refuse anyone of questionable character for any reason from winning the free NY-modified and legal AR-15. A local FFL dealer in Troy will perform the background checks and the transaction the following day.