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An upstate New York pastor is doing something a bit unconventional at Sunday service in a couple weeks — giving away a free rifle.
WTEN reports Grace Baptist Church Pastor John Koletas will give away the legally-modified AR-15 to churchgoers at service on March 23.
"Because we've been a blessing and a help to other people, I sort of feel obligated to be a blessing and a help to gun owners and hunters who have been viciously attacked these last few years. It's their Second Amendment right." (Via WRGB)
Another nearby pastor who made it his mission to get guns off the streets told WRGB he sees it differently: "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."
Another local pastor told the New York Daily News that the gun giveaway is sending people the wrong message: "We promulgate the gospel as peacemakers. ... Even the Bible teaches us to turn the other cheek."
A local Republican assemblyman who's expected to speak at the service in a couple weeks says he doesn't see an issue with it.
"I don't see where there's a controversy. There are churches that give away cars, there are churches that give away money, there are churches that have Vegas nights. So I don't see how this is, in any way, a controversial thing to do." (Via WNYT)
In response to both support and criticism, Koletas responded with online posts for those for and against the giveaway on Grace Baptist Church's website Friday.
In his entry for supporters, Koletas says any "eligible adult" can win the rifle that the church will buy from a local gun shop and adds no money has to be donated for the giveaway.
And in response to the criticism, Koletas said, in part: "To those with filthy, vulgar, obscene comments and death threats, we sincerely love you and pray for you. God bless you."
The winner won't take the rifle home from church. Instead, the church will give the winner a voucher to pick it up from the gun shop the church bought it from.