As authorities continue to investigate the deadly mass shooting in Las Vegas, leaders from various faiths are speaking out.
Of course, they have offered prayers of comfort and peace for everyone impacted by the tragedy, which claimed the lives of 58 people and led to hundreds of others being wounded after a gunman fired into a crowd at a concert.
However, many of these same faith leaders are joining forces to call for solutions to prevent future acts of mass violence.
“Prayer can be a powerful healing force in a divided country, but action is also needed to solve the epidemic of violence,” said Rev. Randolph Marshall Hollerith, dean of the National Cathedral in Washington, in a statement released to news media.
After stating the need for “substantive policy recommendations,” he added, “We need to engage in a national conversation and ask ourselves how can we properly balance the right to bear arms with the need to keep weapons.”
In Indianapolis, Bishop Jennifer Baskerville-Burrows of the Episcopal Diocese of Indianapolis said she respects the right of law-abiding citizens to have weapons for self defense but agrees that a national conversation about gun violence is overdue.
She issued a joint statement as part of Bishops United Against Gun Violence, which said, “It is entirely reasonable in the wake of mass killings perpetrated by murderers with assault weapons to ask lawmakers to remove these weapons from civilian hands.”
Leaders in other faiths have also been blunt in calling for changes to laws governing weapons and ammunition. For example, the B’nai B’rith faith has already adopted a resolution calling for a federal ban on assault weapons, as well as a limit on the capacity of ammunition magazines.
“It is well past time for meaningful, bipartisan gun violence legislation in this country,” stated Gary Saltzman and Daniel Mariaschin, two leading B’nai B’rith officials. “We have long held there is no reasonable need for citizens to have access to large amounts of ammunition.”
Rabbi Rick Jacobs, president of the Union for Reform Judaism, believes prayer must be “followed by action” to curb easy access to firearms.
“Common sense measures, like restricting the use of silencers that make a shooter harder to locate and stop, must prevail,” said Jacobs.
As the nation prepares for a possible debate on gun laws, some faith leaders have encouraged practical measures to assist survivors of the shooting in Las Vegas.
“American Muslims, along with Americans of all faiths and backgrounds, should immediately donate blood in Nevada and across the nation to assist the wounded,” said Nihad Awad, national executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations.
Awad also noted that people of all faiths should unite against terrorism, particularly after the terrorist group ISIS claimed responsibility for the Las Vegas shooting. Their claim has not been substantiated.
“That the terror group ISIS would — without evidence — claim ‘credit’ for this heinous crime is an example of evil exploiting evil,” Awad said. “It is further evidence of their depravity.”
Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, believes that the best way to counter evil committed by mass shooters and terrorist groups is for Americans to come together and do good for each other.
“In the end,” DiNardo said, “the only response is to do good — for no matter what the darkness, it will never overcome the light.”