Pastor Robert Jeffress said Monday that many of the people in the congregation in his Dallas megachurch are armed when they attend services, and should a shooter attack, it would be the last thing that person would do.
“If somebody tries that in our church, they may get one shot off or two shots off, but that’s it,” Jeffress, the pastor of the First Baptist Church of Dallas, which has approximately 12,000 members, told Fox News’ “Fox & Friends” program.
“And that’s the last thing they will ever do in this life.”
Jeffress told the program that “a quarter to half of our members are conceal carry [holders],” and they do bring their guns into church with them, as they likely feel safer by being armed.
The pastor’s comments came while discussing Sunday’s massacre at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs. At least 26 people, including children, were killed when a lone gunman armed with a military-style gun and dressed in all-black tactical gear walked into the small church and opened fire at about 12:30 p.m., while the parishioners were worshipping.
“Those guys are cowards,” Fox News’ Brian Kilmeade said in response to Jeffress’ comments. “They don’t like when people shoot back. They like to hit defenseless people. That won’t be the case anymore.”
Jeffress told the program that more than 30 years ago, when he’d been pastoring a small church in West Texas, a man stopped and told him about another shooting.
“In June of 1980, he was in the church service at First Baptist Church, in Dangerville, Texas, when a gunman burst through the front door, opened fire on the parishioners, killing five,” said Jeffress.
“Seated next to this man was his 11-year-old daughter, and he told me he watched as the gunman literally blew her face off with a gun blast. You know, he said his faith was shaken, but it wasn’t destroyed.”
After a situation such as what happened Sunday, Jeffress said people can either give up their faith in God, or keep trusting God.
“When we find ourselves in the darkness, and we can’t see God’s hands, we can always trust God’s heart, and that’s what these church members in Sutherland Springs are doing right now,” said Jeffress. “They don’t understand the why, none of us do. But they trust God’s heart.”
He does, though, think that smaller churches, such as the one attacked on Sunday, may be “even more of a target than larger churches like mine.”
At the same time, smaller churches don’t have to have a lot of money to protect themselves, said the pastor.
“You can go to your local police department and ask them to do a threat assessment of your church,” said Jeffress. “You can have an evacuation plan. You can enlist volunteers to serve as security watchers during the services. You can have common sense policies like we do of not allowing backpacks into the sanctuary.”
“This is the world we’re living in,” he added. “We need to do everything we can to keep our parishioners safe, but overall we can’t be paralyzed by fear. God hasn’t given us a spirit of fear.”