A church in Tampa, Florida, is sparking some major attention over it’s decision to post a sign that proclaims, “This is not a gun-free zone.”
It’s a pointed message that is receiving some press as houses of worship across the country attempt to grapple with the aftereffects of the horrific mass shooting that claimed the lives of 26 congregants at First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, earlier this month.
The sign, which was posted last year by River at Tampa Bay Church, boldly reads: “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 WE WILL PROTECT OUR PEOPLE.” The tough note is signed, “THE PASTORS.”
Associate Pastor Allen Hawes, 37, told The Tampa Bay Times that the sign is meant to be a “deterrent” for would-be gunman.
“Look at what is going on. In the past two months, look at what happened in Texas. Look at what happened in Las Vegas,” he said. “Because we are a church that is on television, we are very involved in the community. We want people to know that this is a safe zone.”
Hawes added, “If you walk through the door with the intention to harm, that sign serves as a deterrent to you. We are not a soft target. People here will defend their families.”
The Times reported that the sign is catching attention after Senior Pastor Rodney Howard-Browne posted it on Instagram following the Sutherland Springs shooting.
“Welcome to the River at Tampa Bay Church – our sign at every door of our church,” the pastor wrote as he shared an image of the warning signage.
What do you think of the message?