Aurora Shooting Tragedy: Amid Prayers, Calls for More Gun Control

(Photo Credit: United Methodist News Service / Kathleen Barry)Candles for a prayer vigil are seen in a file photo.

People near and far from the Aurora, Colorado movie theater shooting on Friday morning which has left 12 people dead and dozens injured have been calling for prayer for all involved while some are also calling for stricter gun control laws.

About 200 People held a prayer vigil across the street from the Century 16 movie-plex at a Kaiser Permanente. The shooting was reportedly carried out in a packed theater by a heavily armed 24-year old medical student, James Holmes of San Diego, Calif.

The vigil included the mother of a murder victim, Rhonda Fields.

"Today we came to pray. Today we came to heal," she said, according to "This is a very sad situation. I don't know about you, but I'm shaken. We have 12 people that lost their lives behind us … I don't know what else to do but pray."

Also present was father of a victim of the Columbine High School shooting, who has since become a gun control activist.
"We have been there, we understand," said Tom Mouser, whose son was killed in the 1999 attack, according to the Associated Press.

Mouser said he had not previously been a person to pray when someone died, because he figured God was not counting. But after hearing so many people prayed for him, he said he understood those prayers.

"God did not send us to this Earth to be on the sidelines. He sent us here to intervene and be with other people," he said. "I appreciate what people did for me and I felt I needed to be here tonight."

Rev. Joe Mares, pastor of First Presbyterian Church of Aurora Colorado said on the church's website that none of its members or immediate friends were directly injured but "we are all hurting." The church said its Sunday worship would be a "time of reflection, prayer and mutual support for the soul of Aurora and the greater Denver metro area."

"In the meantime, remember that God will deliver us when it seems that evil entangles us, when all seems hopeless and pointless and when it seems that we stand alone," he wrote.

"I am encouraged by the words in Daniel 6:23 when God delivered His servant Daneil: 'So Daniel was taken up out of the den, and no manner of hurt was found upon him, because he believed in God,'" he wrote.

Park Hill United Methodist Church, located about 10 miles from the scene of the shooting, issued a statement on Friday in the wake of the attack.

"Each life taken is a reminder of God's amazing and limitless love and grace, and the tragedy of just one person who wanders off into the darkness of fear and hate," a statement on the church's website read.

"God, you create a beautiful world and you give breath to all who breathe. Thank you for every unrepeatable moment of every life is," the church added. "Pick up and carry each one who fell to a gunman's violence last night. Send your healing mercy to those who were harmed. And shine a light into the darkness where James Holmes wanders lost, and lead him even now on a path of peace."

Shooting Renews Calls for More Gun Control

Across the country, the interim dean of the Washington National Cathedral, Rev. Dr. Francis H. Wade called the shooting an "empty evil," and linked it to gun availability.

"This empty evil adds to a series of violent acts that weigh heavily on the national consciousness, acts that must surely occasion focused discussion on the interplay of violence and the availability of guns," Rev. Wade said.

"This moment also calls for prayer. Our prayers at the National Cathedral today will mourn the fallen-and we will continue to remember those injured, along with their communities, as we renew our calls for healing and peace."

Kathryn Lohre, President of the New York-based National Council of Churches said Christians across the nation are "surrounding the community" of Aurora in prayer.

She called on elected officials at every level of government to "seek policies tha twill foster greater peace in our communities and throughout this country."

"May God bring comfort and healing to all, including the families of those who have been injured and killed," Lohre said, "and also to the alleged gunman and his family."

She noted the NCC passed a resolution in 2010 called "Ending Gun Violence, A Call to Action" which called on churches, government and officials to work together to address the problem.

It called on "our local, state, and federal legislators to enact reforms that limit access to assault weapons and handguns, including closing the so-called federal 'gun show loophole,' which allows for the purchase of firearms from private sellers without submitting to a background check, or providing documentation of the purchase."

The resolution called upon people of faith to "prayerfully, financially, and otherwise support the NCC staff in coordinating ecumenical efforts for gun violence reduction, including preparing educational materials about the magnitude of gun violence, developing avenues for dialogue among gun owners and gun control advocates within our congregations, and offering a faithful witness in cooperating with inter-faith and nonreligious anti-gun violence advocacy organizations."

The General Board of Church & Society of the United Methodist Church also called for prayers for victims.

"We grieve at the tragic loss of life and the needless injuries - especially when so many of the victims are so young," the board said.

"The United Methodist Church considers it a priority public health issue to prevent firearm-related death and injury. In its resolution on 'Gun Violence,' the denomination calls for social policies and personal lifestyles that bring an end to senseless gun violence, including a ban on all handguns," the board added.

"Equal to our sadness at this tragic loss of life is our disappointment at Congress' inability to place public safety above the interests of the National Rifle Assn."

Faiths United to Prevent Gun Violence, a coalition which mostly mainline protestant groups such as the Episcopal Church, UMC, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), the United Church of Christ, the Progressive National Baptist Convention and the NCC also issued a statement in response.

"We … hold in prayer the victims and families of the tragic shooting in Aurora, Colo. Like all those who suffer from gun violence, we appreciate the expressions of grief and concern from our nation's leaders," said James Winkler, who heads the UM Board of Church and Society and is the chair of the coalition.

"But, these expressions are not enough. Faiths United to Prevent Gun Violence pledges to work with our nation's leaders to do all we can to make sure that tragedies like this do not happen again," he said.

Copyright © 2013 Ecumenical News