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Lake Oswego pastor says he'll transform AR-15 he won in raffle into a piece of art
Christ Church Episcopal's Rev. Jeremy Lucas spends $3,000 to make sure the weapon is never used
Freshly back from vacation, the Rev. Jeremy Lucas of Christ Church Episcopal Parish in Lake Oswego says he was catching up on the news earlier this month when he came upon a distressing Twitter message: A local girls softball team planned to raffle off an AR-15 assault rifle to raise funds to travel to a tournament in California.
It was jarring, Lucas told The Review on Tuesday. This is the gun used most often in mass shootings in the past decade.
Lucas says he knew he had to do something, so he spent $3,000 from a personal church fund and member donations to buy 150 raffle tickets. He says he had two goals in mind: to help the team get to the tournament for which they had worked so hard, and to take the weapon out of circulation.
The outlay was no guarantee of success. Another man spent $1,420 on 71 raffle tickets and all 499 tickets were sold, according to Ryan Payne, who coaches the District 2 Big League Softball Team. But Lucas won, and he now says he plans to transform the assault rifle into a piece of art; he took possession of the weapon on Wednesday.
Its a small, symbolic act, he says. There are millions of guns, I know that. But this gun will never be used to kill kids in schools, kill people in a movie theater, kill people at an office party or at any other place of mass shootings. This gun will never be found by a child who accidently shoots a friend, or accidently used by a police chief whos had too much to drink at a barbecue and shoots a friend.
It wont be used by a vet with PTSD to kill himself that happens once every hour, and having guns available makes it a quick-and-easy solution, Lucas says. It will never be stolen and used to commit a crime or used to threaten a family in a domestic violence situation. If I had the chance for $3,000 to keep any of these things from happening even one time Id do it again in a second.
The District 2 Big League Softball Team won 12 of its 13 games this season, easily qualifying for the West Regional Tournament for the third consecutive year. But as in the past, it was up to the team to pay for travel costs to Lancaster, Calif.
Basically, we were spending more time doing car washes and fundraising then we were practicing which takes away from our competitive level, says Payne, whose players are between the ages of 16 and 19. We knew (the raffle) might be a touchy subject for some people so (we said), If anybodys uncomfortable, you dont have to participate.
The team decided on a rifle raffle because it was a desirable item with a high monetary value (AR-15s generally retail for between $800 and $1,200), Payne says. In order to give the players more time to practice, only parents and coaches sold tickets for the raffle, which was announced on June 28. The team made it clear that the winner would still have to pass a background check, as required by state law.
Everything changed two weeks later, though, when an armed terrorist shot and killed 49 people at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Fla. Some initial reports said the gunman was armed with an AR-15, though it was later revealed to be a similar gun, the Sig Sauer MCX rifle. Still, the resulting wave of negative publicity put the all-star teams raffle in the crosshairs and brought it to Lucass attention on social media.
He says he initially offered to donate cash to the team to stop the raffle, but was told that it was too late to do that. So five days before the drawing, he purchased as many tickets as he could in a move that he says was driven by my faith.
In Isaiah, God calls us to beat swords into plowshares and create a world of wholeness, health, life and love, and nothing I have read in the Gospels tells me that Jesus would want more guns in the world, Lucas says. He calls us to love our neighbors as ourselves, care for people, feed the homeless, visit the sick. If we want to live in a world where we dont hold gun safety drills in schools, we have to do something different, be something different.
Since news of Lucass raffle win broke this week, he has received a lot of feedback, 90 percent of which he says is positive. But he has been surprised at the amount of negative comments he has received, mostly via social media.
Ive been called all sorts of things like stupid and naïve, and people have asked why I didnt use the money on needy people, he says. They dont know that Christ Church helps feed 700 people each Sunday and has more than 20 other ministries to feed, clothe and support people near and far. They also dont know that I was an attorney, and that Im from Alabama and Ive owned a gun. Im familiar with gun laws, and Ive fired a rifle.
But when it comes to raffling off guns, just because you can doesnt make it right, or mean that you should, he says. In our culture, it sends the wrong message. Kids sports teams shouldnt look to raffling off guns as a quick, easy way to raise money.
Lucas has had several conversations with the teams coach and a players mother, and says though they disagree, the conversations have been respectful and kind. In an email, the mother wrote Lucas that if nothing else, youve shown our girls that you can disagree with respect and kindness, and not resort to hate-filled language and anger.
Thats a good thing, he says. I want more of that in the world.
Lucas says he now intends to have the AR-15 transformed into a symbol of hope. He will be working with artists to melt down the weapon, he says, and create an art piece or pieces. The design has not been determined.
Those wishing to contribute to the effort can donate online at ccparish.org.