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Tampa church has a defiant message for would-be shooters who want to target its congregation

A Tampa, Florida, church has a warning for any would-be shooters: "We are heavily armed." The church wants its congregates to know the church is a safe place, said one of the pastors. (Image source: WTVT-TV screenshot)

A Tampa, Florida, church has a warning for any would-be shooter wishing to target their congregation: "We are heavily armed." That's what a sign on the church declares.

What does the sign say?

It declares:

Warning: 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 pastors

The church — known as The River at Tampa Bay — posted the sign about a year ago, according to the Tampa Bay Times.

Why did they display it?

One of the church's pastors, Allen Hawes, explained to the Times that because the church televises its services on TV, the church wants its congregates to know the church is a safe place. He also cited the recent shooting at a Texas church and the deadly mass shooting in Las Vegas as reasons why the church is highlighting its policy.

"It is a deterrent. Look at what is going on. In the past two months, look at what happened in Texas. Look at what happened in Las Vegas. 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," he said.

"If you walk through the door with the intention to harm, that sign serves as a deterrent to you," he added. "We are not a soft target. People here will defend their families."

But is it biblically sound?

Hawes told WTVT-TV that he believes it is a church's responsibility to protect its parishioners.

"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," he said.

However, Jesus was clear about what he thought of violence. In Matthew, during his famed "Sermon on the Mount," Jesus instructed followers to not fight back when confronted with violence. Instead, Jesus famously told followers to "turn the other cheek." And when Jesus was being arrested, he instructed Peter, who drew a sword to defend Jesus, to put his sword down because "for all who draw the sword will die by the sword."

For his part, Hawes said that he, along with many of his church members, have concealed-carry permits.

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