In an effort to fill pews, an upstate New York church is giving away an AR-15 assault rifle, Albany television station WNYT
Grace Baptist Church in Troy, population 50,000, circulated fliers announcing the giveaway that also included the biblical passage "My peace I give unto you." Speaking at the March 23 service where the "legally modified gun" will be given away is Assemblyman Steve McLaughlin, an outspoken gun rights advocate.
McLaughlin, a Republican, dismisses the hoopla sparked since the fliers went out.
"It's a legal product," he told WNYT. "Churches raffle off items all the time. My church has a $10,000 raffle every single year. I mean, I don't know how it's a controversy, quite honestly, that law-abiding, church-going citizens of New York that are legal gun owners are taking part in a raffle to raise funds for a church. I don't know why that's controversial."
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The church has cautioned that it "reserves the right to disqualify people of questionable character."
It’s not the first time McLaughlin has invited controversy on the subject of gun control. He lobbied hard to defeat the NY SAFE Act, a gun control law passed last year by the New York Legislature and signed into law by Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo. The legislation came about after the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown, Conn.
Last year, the New York Post
reported that McLaughlin, a former commercial pilot who the paper characterized as a "lawmaker who backs gun rights and Texas-style low taxes," had emerged as a likely challenger for Cuomo this year.
McLaughlin once compared Cuomo to Hitler for the way he "rammed through" the SAFE Act.
"I am considering running for governor," McLaughlin told the Post. "There are 4 million gun owners in this state, and I don’t know one who is going to vote for Cuomo."
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