New York senator: Church raffling off AR-15 "very disturbing", "don't think they should be publicly available"

AP Photo/Mary Altaffer

Grace Baptist Church in Troy, New York has been raffling off a modern sporting rifle every year for the past few years, but Pastor John Koletas and his gun giveaway haven’t really been the subject of much news attention until this year’s raffle caught the eye of local media outlets, who seem intent on creating a controversy where one doesn’t exist.

WNYT-TV went so far as to reach out to New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand to get her thoughts on the gun raffle, and viewers old enough to remember when Gillibrand was a pro-gun Democrat who bragged about her “A” rating from the NRA had to have been rolling their eyes at the senator’s hyperbolic response to the church’s rifle raffle, which was nothing more than a regurgitation of the gun control lobby’s latest talking points on semi-automatic rifles.

“Well, first of all I believe that AR-15s should be banned. I don’t think they should be publicly available to civilians. It is a military-style weapon designed to kill large numbers of people very quickly and not designed for hunting, not designed for enthusiasts; they’re designed for war. So I think that’s wrong, and as a person of faith it’s very disturbing to me personally that a church would be giving away weapons of war designed to kill large numbers of people very quickly.”

Go check out the actual video of Gillibrand’s response when you’ve finished here. For someone who’s talking about wanting to get rid of an instrument supposedly designed solely for mass murder, she sounds downright bored by the conversation… or maybe like someone who’s merely repeating catch phrases from her anti-gun buddies rather than speaking from the heart. If she is truly professing her faith, then I’d love for her to explain why law enforcement should be exempt from her gun ban, given that she thinks they’re “designed to kill large numbers of people very quickly.”

For all I know Gillibrand could still believe that gun control and gun bans are a dumb and unconstitutional way to address violent crime and public safety; positions she held dear to her heart right up until she was appointed to the U.S. Senate in 2009. Just like current New York governor Kathy Hochul, Gillibrand abandoned her support for the Second Amendment at the same time she became a candidate for statewide office; an awfully convenient (and probably contrived) change of heart that benefited her politically in a state that was already slipping into solid Democratic territory at the same time the party was becoming more monolithically anti-gun.

I mean, this is the same person who once bragged about keeping rifles (of an unspecified variety) under her bed for self-defense.

The recently appointed senator told Newsday that they have two rifles. They also have two young children.

“If I want to protect my family, if I want to have a weapon in the home, that should be my right,” Gillibrand told Newsday.

One of her aides said Gillibrand won one of the two rifles in a raffle at a county fair.

Oddly, the Newsday article is no longer online, but I managed to find an archived version at the Internet Archive, which provided a few more details about Gillibrand’s rifles and why she owned them.

Gillibrand said neither she nor her husband is a hunter, and in a general discussion of gun control said, “If I want to protect my family, if I want to have a weapon in the home, that should be my right.”

The mother of two young children has taken “gun safety procedures to ensure family safety,” an aide later said, but declined to say what steps.

Gillibrand’s guns are rifles, her chief of staff Jess Fassler said in an e-mail, and she won one of them in a raffle at a county fair while campaigning. He said New York does not require anyone to register rifles.

… But even after living in Manhattan with its gun violence for 12 years, Gillibrand, who as a House member won the National Rifle Association’s top rating, rejects city gun bans or limits on legally owned guns.

“It’s a false debate,” she said. “It’s political rhetoric that’s sucking you in to believe that hunters owning a gun or an American citizen who wants to protect his home owning a gun somehow increases gun violence.”

Asked if she owned a gun, she said, “We own two.”

Asked where she kept them, she said, “Under the bed.”

Gillibrand said while she and her husband don’t hunt, her mother, brother and father do.

“I grew up in a house where my mom owns about eight guns. She keeps them in a gun case,” Gillibrand said.

Gillibrand made those comments shortly after she was appointed to the U.S. Senate seat vacated by Hillary Clinton and during a brief attempt to triangulate on the gun issue; a position she quickly abandoned in favor of falling in line with the gun control lobby and their campaign war chests. As The Hill reported in February of 2009:

Gillibrand’s stand on gun rights has already become a critical issue during her short tenure as a senator. Rep. Carolyn McCarthy (D-N.Y.), who husband was killed in a Long Island shooting in 1993, has said she is considering challenge Gillibrand in the 2010 Democratic primary because Gillibrand’s support of gun rights. Gillibrand is also clearly working to counter that line of attack, appearing recently at a high school of a student that was killed in a gang shoot out.

McCarthy never challenged Gillibrand in the 2010 special election, nor did Carolyn Maloney, who had also threatened to run against Gillibrand for being too supportive of the Second Amendment. By the time the primary season had started in earnest, the Democrat machine had made it clear that Gillibrand was their preferred pick, and she had largely completed her flip-flop on Second Amendment issues. The woman who once (allegedly) kept two rifles under her bed for self-defense now says that the most common and popular rifle when it comes to self-defense should now be criminalized and banned outright.

None of which, by the way, is going to stop Pastor Koletas from going forward with the rifle raffle.

Over the weekend, we asked him why he thought it was necessary to give away a gun.

“Because I think everyone ought to have a gun. I think everyone ought to have the right to defend themselves,” he said.

“Obviously we’re getting attention whether we want it or not, but it’s just to be a blessing for people who hunt,” Koletas said.

NewsChannel 13 also heard from several neighbors in the area who criticized Grace Baptist Church.

“It makes me very nervous because you’re promoting violence,” a neighbor named Nora said. “It’s not a high-crime area over here, but I can definitely see a lot of suspicious characters coming over here just to get a gun and we don’t know what they’re using them for.”

Outside the church, there was a sign on the door that read, “This is NOT a gun-free zone. ” People in the neighborhood say the sign scares them, especially after many shootings this year in the country.

And once again we see the power of the uneducated voter, who has no idea that anyone winning the raffle will have to go through a background check before the AR-15 can be transferred to them. No “suspicious character” is going to try to illegally arm themselves by entering a church raffle, especially when they could easily turn to the illicit market for one.

Of course, with senators like Gillibrand so willing to mislead the public about AR-15s and other semi-automatic rifles and a media that’s often eager to amplify an anti-gun narrative, its no wonder that there are millions of people like Nora who are convinced that promoting gun ownership is the same as promoting violence. It’s up to us as gun owners and Second Amendment supporters to change that narrative and we definitely have our work cut out for us these days. Koletas may not have wanted as much attention as his rifle raffle has received, but I hope that he’ll take advantage of the spotlight while it’s on him and explain why our right to keep and bear arms is so important to him and others; whether those in the pews at Grace Baptist Church or the gun owners challenging New York’s latest infringements on that fundamental right.