A Pennsylvania church on Wednesday held a blessing ceremony for couples, some of whom brought their AR-15 rifles.
The World Peace and Unification Sanctuary hosted the event, at which couples wearing white dresses and dark suits renewed their vows and received blessings on their unloaded firearms, according to the Associated Press.
A representative of the church in an email to The Hill disputed that the firearms were blessed and said that, despite reports, the group does not believe guns are religious symbols.
The group, considered to be a cult by many, refers to firearms as a "Rod of Iron," a phrase taken from the Bible book of Revelation.
The church leader, Rev. Sean Moon, in a statement strongly advocated for the right to bear arms and to "use the power of the 'Rod of Iron' not to harm or oppress as has been done in the satanic kingdoms of this world, but to protect God’s children."
Moon prayed at the ceremony for “a kingdom of peace police and peace militia where the citizens, through the right given to them by almighty God to keep and bear arms, will be able to protect one another and protect human flourishing," the AP said.
An AR-15 is the weapon police say was used to kill 17 people and injure 14 others in the school shooting at a Florida high school.
One attendee of the ceremony told the AP that she and her husband own an AR-15 to protect themselves from “sickos and evil psychopaths.”
"People have the right to bear arms, and in God's kingdom, you have to protect that," she said. "You have to protect against evil.”
A nearby elementary school closed for the event, taking students to a school 15 miles away as a safety precaution. The event was expected to draw a crowd.
A small group of protestors gathered outside the sanctuary, with one calling the attendees “an armed religious cult.”
In the wake of the Florida shooting, lawmakers have grappled with how to act on gun control legislation, with some proposing a ban on assault-style weapons such as the AR-15.
President TrumpDonald TrumpTrump takes shot at new GOP candidate in Ohio over Cleveland nickname GOP political operatives indicted over illegal campaign contribution from Russian national in 2016 On The Money — Dems dare GOP to vote for shutdown, default MORE on Wednesday pushed lawmakers during a bipartisan meeting at the White House to raise the minimum age for purchasing such rifles from 18 to 21.
-Updated March 1 at 10:15 a.m.