The congregation at Grace Baptist Church in Troy, N.Y., doubled in size Sunday as parishioners, locals and visitors from locations as far as New York City assembled to find out who won an AR-15 in the culmination of a controversial firearm raffle.
In addition to announcing the winner, the Rev. John Koletas, the pastor at Grace Baptist Church, made another proclamation that will likely draw additional ire from gun control advocates.
He said that a second AR-15 will be awarded Monday evening.
“It may not sit well with some folks, but with all the media attention, the public pressure and the backlash we received … after consideration I have decide that instead of giving away a pre-modified AR-15 rifle, that we are going to give away two,” Koletas said, according to the Troy Record.
The house of worship made headlines when it first announced earlier this month that the gun drawing was underway.
Sunday’s winner was Ronald Stafford, 42, whose name was reportedly chosen after other winners weren’t available to claim the prize.
Stafford isn’t a member of the church and, according to the New York Daily News, the avid hunter traveled 25 miles for a chance to claim the AR-15.
“I believe it’s the right of the individual, I believe the church and our God-given rights and our rights to follow the Constitution go hand in hand,” he said during the service. “I like to shoot. I believe that this shows the will of the people and what this country is all about.”
Stafford will need to pass an FBI background check before Oakwood Trading Post, a local gun store that sponsored the giveaway, will hand over the Smith & Wesson AR-15, which runs between $800 and $1,200, the Daily News reported.
“Win a FREE AR-15 … Does the Bible defend my right to keep and bear arms?,” read a flyer advertising the event on the church’s website.
WNYT-TV has more:
As TheBlaze previously reported, other local faith leaders have blasted Koletas and the church for giving guns away. For instance, Pastor Willie Bacote of the Missing Link Ministry said the church has no business handing out guns.
“Even though they have the disclaimer there of questionable character and background checks, I don’t believe the church should serve in that capacity of arming people in any particular way, except through the word of God,” Bacote told WNYT earlier this month, adding that he’s been working toward getting guns out of his community.