As most of the sensible people in the nation are calling for stronger gun control measures and bans against assault weapons, a Pennsylvania church is encouraging couples to arm themselves with AR-15 rifles.
The congregation is an extension of the Unification Church, and they are telling people to bring their rifles to a commitment ceremony on Feb. 28 in the Pocono Mountains, which is just a half-mile from an elementary school, local ABC affiliate WPVI-TV reports.
World Peace and Unification Sanctuary, located in the village of Newfoundland, claims they planned the ceremony months prior to last week’s mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.
The church’s director of world missions, Tim Elder, said that they believe the AR-15 represents the “rod of iron” that is mentioned in the book of Revelation in the Bible. Therefore, the church is planning to bestow blessings upon couples who own AR-15 rifles.
The church’s website specifies that these semiautomatic weapons symbolize “both the intent and the ability to defend one’s family, community…”
However, some residents and parents have expressed concern about the event because the church is in close proximity to Wallenpaupack South Elementary School.
"It's something I would consider keeping my child home. It's scary," parent Liz Zoccola told local reporters.
Another parent, Kendra Hanor, shared similar sentiments.
“I wish they wouldn't have it at all. I don't think there's a good time to have it, especially this close,” she said.
Despite the community’s uneasiness, Elder maintained that the guns will be unloaded, secured with zip ties, and checked at the door.
"Now more than ever, good people need to stand up and claim for themselves the tools that can be used to stop that kind of evil," he said in defense of the church’s decision not to cancel or postpone the event.
Making matters even more alarming, state police do not intend to send any troopers to the ceremony because the event is not breaking any laws.
While the ceremony, itself, may be within the church's legal rights, there still should be some form of security present because when you invite a large group of people to come together toting assault rifles, there's no guarantee that violence will not ensue.
As our country has witnessed back in 2015 in Charleston, South Carolina, and again in 2017 in Sutherland Springs, Texas, churches can be targeted. Who is to say that someone posing as a member of the congregation won't take this event as an opportunity to carry out another massacre?