Local pastors taking safety into own hands, packing heat in church

Bonnie Bradshaw and her husband

SUFFOLK, Va. (WAVY) – After the deadly church shooting in Texas, many people are wondering, “should guns be allowed in churches?”  For two pastors in Suffolk, that answer is yes.

10 years ago, Bonnie Bradshaw and her husband decided to make a change.

“We both felt called into the ministry,” Bradshaw said.  They started preaching at a church in Chesapeake, then formed their own in Suffolk.  Always by their sides: their guns.

“I find that it’s one of those things that you need to have with you at all times,” Bradshaw said.

Especially in church.  “Being a pastor of a church, it’s our responsibility to keep our flock, if you want to say, safe,” said Bradshaw.  “Whether it’s spiritually or physically.”

With children and elderly people in their community, they want to be able to act quickly.  The regulars all know a certain word or hand motion means ‘hit the ground.’

Bradshaw said, “We are the first ones to see who walks in that door.  So if somebody looks a little off, you know they’re up to something, we’re kind of going to pick up on that.”

Members of their community also carry.  But it’s not as simple as walking into their church with a gun.

“We make sure everybody is above-board, that we have copies of the concealed weapons permit, we know who’s carrying,” Bradshaw said.

A Portsmouth native, Bradshaw remembers times when she didn’t have to worry about gun violence.

“I remember sitting on our front porch with my grandmother until 2 or 3 o’clock in the morning,” she said.  “But today it’s not like that.”

So, she and her husband are taking their safety, and the safety of their community, into their own hands.

“We’re going to do everything we can to protect, we don’t want to be victims,” said Bradshaw.

The Bradshaws are currently on the hunt for a new space, after a new owner made changes to their former building.