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Associated Press
The Rev. John Koletas of Grace Baptist Church in Troy, N.Y., will raffle a rifle at church March 23.

Pastor’s rifle raffle outrages fellow clergy

– The pastor of an upstate New York Baptist church plans to raffle off a rifle during a Sunday service 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 a brand-new Smith & Wesson M&P semi-automatic rifle.

The weapon is similar to the Bushmaster rifle used to kill 20 children and six staff members at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., 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 said. “It’s the right thing to do.”

A typical AR-15-type rifle is now illegal in New York state. 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, the state capital.

“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,” said Charlie Muller, pastor of Victory Christian Church in Albany.

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