Updated: 03/24/2014 9:41 AM
Created: 03/23/2014 3:10 PM WNYT.com
By: Dan Bazile
Grace Baptist Church on Fourth Avenue in Troy is not normally packed for a Sunday service, but this week there was something extra in the program. The church decided to give away a rifle.
People came from as far away as New York City to take part in the raffle for a free AR-15. Assemblyman Steve McLaughlin, who spoke during the service, admits it may sound unusual to some people that a place of worship, a place for peace, is raffling off a weapon.
“Yes is it unusual,” said McLaughlin. “Is it illegal? Absolutely not. And it's not unethical either. And the people have every right to support the second amendment. I hope everybody does.”
McLaughlin says people have every right to defend themselves and laws like the SAFE Act is eating away at it.
The Rev. John Koletas says even though he's against the New York SAFE Act, this is not in protest of the law. He says he's showing support for gun owners and hunters affected by the law and notes that the giveaway is well within the principles of Christian belief.
“This is doing exactly what we've always done for the last two thousand years since Jesus walked the shores of Galilee,” said the reverend.
After nearly three hours of sermon, singing and speeches from two different guests, Ron Stafford was the big winner.
“It felt like I was at home and I felt like I was with the majority of all Americans,” Stafford said.
Stafford will have to go through a background check. If he qualifies, he'll be able to pick up his weapon at Oakwood Trading Post in Troy
With the turnout as big as it was on Sunday, Koletas decided it's only fair to do it again as early as Monday night. He'll be giving away a second AR-15 at the church.