'We Are Heavily Armed' Florida Church Warns No One in Particular

Signs papering the building warn that any attempt to wreak havoc within its walls will be met "with deadly force."
Drew Schwartz
Brooklyn, US
Image via The River at Tampa Bay Church pastor Rodney Howard Browne / Instagram

Two days after a gunman fatally shot 26 people and wounded many others at a church in rural Texas, the pastor of a Florida congregation hopped on Instagram to show off the signs posted on every door of his church. If you've come to breach the peace, it warns, be ready for a firefight.

The signs have been up for about a year at the River at Tampa Bay Church, associate pastor Allen Hawes told the Tampa Bay Times. But in light of the Sutherland Springs shooting earlier this month—along with the Las Vegas mass shooting that killed 59—the River figured it was a good time to publicize the fact that its congregants are packing.


"It is a deterrent," Hawes told the paper, later adding, "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."

The church draws upwards of 1,000 people to its Sunday services, which are broadcast on social media, according to local affiliate FOX 13. A number of those in the crowd are liable to carry weapons—whether that's a worshipper with a concealed-carry permit, a plainclothes guard, or a cop hired to patrol the property. Hawes himself has a concealed-carry permit; he told the Times he likes to stay strapped with a Springfield handgun.

"We are not a soft target," he told the paper. "People here will defend their families."

The massacre in Texas came to a close after two locals shot and chased down the perpetrator, inspiring a wave of wannabe "good guys with guns"—essentially, people who believe the answer to gun violence is more firearms, except in the right hands. The argument is still a central talking point for the gun rights movement, even though research strongly suggests the theory is bogus.

As Hawes asked the local FOX affiliate, "Would I rather ruffle a few feathers, or do I want to count bodies?"

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