In 2017, there have been a total of 317 mass shootings in the United States, according to Gun Violence Archive. Schools, movie theaters, shopping malls and even churches have been home to violent massacres.
Now, one church in Florida is making headlines for trying to prevent any bloodshed on its own property.
Over a year ago, the River at Tampa Bay Church posted a sign on the doors of its church, according to Fox 13. The signs warned people that should anyone attempt to harm members of its congregation, they will be met with “deadly force” by the church’s gun-carrying pastors.
Now, after posting a photo of the sign to its Instagram page, the church is facing some major backlash.Rodneyhowardbrowne/Instagram
The sign reads:
Welcome to The River at Tampa Bay Church — right of admission reserved — this is private property. Please know this is not a gun free zone — we are heavily armed — any attempt will be dealt with deadly force — yes we are a church and will protect our people.
And it’s signed:
— The Pastors
Pastor Allen Hawes told Fox 13 he has a concealed-carry weapons permit, and during services — which attract more than 1,000 people — he will be armed. He added that members of the congregation with a concealed-carry permit, private plainclothes guards and uniformed deputies will also be armed.
Not everyone, however, agrees with the nondenominational church’s outlook on active shooters. Some commenters argued that, being followers of Christ, the pastors are going against the Bible’s teachings:
Rodneyhowardbrowne/Instagram Rodneyhowardbrowne/Instagram Rodneyhowardbrowne/Instagram Rodneyhowardbrowne/Instagram
For some, the most disturbing part of the sign wasn’t even about the guns:Rodneyhowardbrowne/Instagram
Some believe the sign is “inviting” trouble to the church’s doorstep:Rodneyhowardbrowne/Instagram
But on the other hand, a lot of people agreed with the pastor:Rodneyhowardbrowne/Instagram Rodneyhowardbrowne/Instagram Rodneyhowardbrowne/Instagram
Pastor Hawes told Fox 13 he feels the sign and the backing behind it coincides with the Bible’s teachings:
“I believe, if you look at the teachings of Jesus, Matthew, and different places in the scriptures, we see it will get increasingly darker, wars, rumors of wars, and people with not good intentions are going to look for a way to make a statement.”
Although he’s quite aware he has started an online controversy, he said he’d rather that than any alternative:
“Would I rather ruffle a few feathers, or do I want to count bodies?”
Among the comments were many users saying they hope to put Pastor Hawes’s sign to practice in their own churches, but judging by the heated arguments on the Instagram post, they might be met with fervent opposition.