Rev. Jeremy Lucas, an Episcopal priest at Lake Oswego Christ Church in Oregon, recently won an AR-15 assault rifle in a raffle. When he announced his intentions to destroy the weapon, he received threats from gun advocates and calls for his arrest.
'I’ve come to learn a lot about the nature of social media," Lucas told the Los Angeles Times. "The rabid gun activists come out swinging, trying to close down any meaningful conversation and attempting to intimidate people into silence."
The raffle was staged by the Oregon's Big League Girls' All-Star Softball Team (ages 14-18), reported in Willamette Week in July. The report included a photo of one of the girls swinging the weapon as if it were a baseball bat.
"This is still America, where I believe we are free to pursue our own joy," Georgia Herr, a district manager for the team, told Willamette Week at the time. "For those who have the money and resources to shoot rifles, I believe they have as much of a right to do so as those who spend their time chasing invisible Pokemon."
The girls sold raffle tickets for the weapon to anyone 18 or older, which Herr defended: "I don't presume to judge what is appropriate for others, but I do believe parents are responsible for teaching their children. That's why this was initiated with parent involvement."
The AR-15 was the semi-automatic weapon used in the Sandy Hook Elementary massacre in 2012 that killed 20 students.
Lucas originally asked the team not to sell the weapon, and offered church funds to pay for it in order to keep it off the streets. But the team told him that tickets had already been sold, and by law they couldn't stop the raffle.
Lucas then used $3,000 from the church's discretionary fund to lawfully buy 150 of the 500 raffle tickets.
Lucas recalled winning the raffle to the Los Angeles Times: "I’m not sure that’s exactly how God works, fixing raffles. I like to believe I took a faithful stance. But I think that God would have been on my side even if I didn’t win, because we helped send a girls' softball team on their trip."
When Lucas' plans to destroy his now-personal property spread, he received support and praise on Facebook from Sandy Hook families and hundreds of other folks. Additionally, people donated over $3,000 to replace the funds.
However, some pro-gun people issued threats against the priest and opined that he had broken an Oregon law by having a church member secure the gun without a background check.
Kevin Starrett, executive director of the Oregon Firearms Federation, tipped off the Oregon State Police who opened an investigation on Lucas.
If Lucas is charged and convicted, he could face up to a year in jail and be fined more than $6,000.
After calling the police on a fellow gun owner, Starrett blamed the law and others for any consequences: "If the pastor is prosecuted, it will demonstrate the idiocy of the law and the people who passed it. If the pastor is not prosecuted, it will demonstrate that anti-gun liberals are above the law and it was only intended to hurt the average gun owner, against whom it could be selectively enforced."
Lucas, who graduated from law school and is a former attorney, expressed his support for the background check law: "Its intent is to keep someone from going out and buying a gun for someone else. I’m glad it’s getting some publicity."
Lucas also saw the bright side of ending up in court: "Anything that can keep us talking about this patchwork of gun laws and gaping holes that we can drive through is good. I mean, it took me less than half an hour to pass that background check and walk out with a semi-automatic rifle. We really should be talking about that."