Is your pastor packing heat?
FORT MYERS, Fla. - At McGregor Baptist church in Fort Myers, the senior pastor focuses on the message. But thoughts of safety are never far from his mind for a very personal reason.
"I actually have a friend who was killed in the pulpit on a Sunday morning, says Dr. Richard Powell.
"Somebody walked in and shot him in the middle of a service, so it's a very real thing to me."
So real, Dr. Powell says it's impossible to ignore ignore the issue of whether to carry a gun in church.
"I've made the intention not to," he says but he acknowledges other pastors in the church do.
"There are some who are in fact carrying pistols and weapons."
They're not alone, just ask the staff at Fowler Firearms gun range in Fort Myers.
" We have at least 3 or 4 pastors that come here to shoot, says John Dezendor of Fowler Firearm.s
And he says some have mentioned the mass shootings in other parts of the country.
"They don't want that to happen to them nor the people in the church."
Others, like the pastor of Life Church in Fort Myers, are moving in a similar direction - taking steps to get concealed weapons permits.
"I've gone through the class," says Rev. Ryan Deating.
"It's just frustrating that we have to think about those things in today's society."
"There are security conferences for churches now," says Rev. Gregory Ford of First Assembly Cornerstone church in Fort Myers.
But like many ministers 4 In Your Corner interviewed for the story, decision about guns as protection is one he keeps close to the vest.
"You wouldn't know if we had one or not," he says.
"I'm not an advocate of guns, but I'm an advocate for safety and we'll leave it right there," says Rev. Ford.
"I think it's really quite ludicrous for anyone to suggest we need to pack a pistol" says Rev. Wayne Robinson of All Faiths Church in Fort Myers.
Rev. Robinson says he understands churches having security plans, but rejects the idea that a gun on the altar can prevent tragedy.
"One of our Unitarian-Universalist churches in Nashville, a shooter came in the back with rifles, he did that in minutes," he says.
"Three people were dead. There was no way a pastor in the pulpit could've been able to save (them,") he says.
But for other pastors, it's step they feel increasingly compelled to take.
"I have a responsibility to make sure not just that I'm protected - it's the least of my concerns, but it's everybody else that worships here," says Rev. Deating of New LIfe church.
"Our people really enjoy coming to worship the Lord and we don't want anything to interrupt that," says Dr. Powell of McGregor Baptist church.