Church Sign Warns Pastors, Members Are 'Heavily Armed' (Photo)

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A Florida church is getting attention for signage that warns that the church's pastors and parishioners are "heavily armed" and will use "deadly force" to protect those inside. 

The east Tampa church, The River at Tampa Bay, has had the signs posted around every public entrance for more than a year, according to WTVT.

"Welcome to the River at Tampa Bay Church -- right of admission reserved -- this is private property," read the signs. "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 warning is signed: "The Pastors." 

Although the signs are a familiar sight at the church, they are receiving new attention after the church's senior pastor, Rodney Howard-Browne, posted the message on Instagram following a Nov. 5 mass shooting at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas. 

"If you think you are going to come here and do that, this is a deterrent for you because it is everywhere, it's not like we hide these signs," Pastor Allen Hawes told WTVT. "They're big signs, and it's going to tell these people, we will protect our people." 

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Congregants at the church are in support of their pastors' decision to post the signs. 

"People are in a place that they should feel safe," church attendee Julian Sutton told WFTS. "To know that we have people that carry, in the event that something were to take place, that something like that could be stopped." 

The church isn't relying on armed members for safety; it also has 24-hour security and local police watch over the building during services. About 1,400 people attend service at the church on any given Sunday.

According to Pastor Hawes, his church is only following Scripture. 

"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," Hawes continued. 

The church's stance has earned it some support on social media. One Instagram account posted a picture of the sign with the caption: "More churches should post signs like this!" 

Hawes is aware his church's pro-gun position may alienate some people, but he says it's about saving lives, not being polite. 

"At the end of the day, we may ruffle some feathers, but I would rather ruffle a couple of feathers than count bodies," he told WFTS. 

Sources: WTVT, WFTS, Miami Herald (2) / Featured Image: Pixabay / Embedded Images: rodneyhowardbrowne/Instagram, Pixabay

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