A coalition of more than 50 national denominations and faith-based organizations urged Congress to reject legislation backed by the National Rifle Association they say will further endanger communities in response to the Oct. 1 mass shooting that killed 58 people and wounded more than 500 during an outdoor music festival in Las Vegas.
In a statement released two days after the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history, Faiths United to Prevent Gun Violence – with members including the Alliance of Baptists, American Baptist Churches of the South, American Baptist Home Mission Societies and Baptist Peace Fellowship of North America – called on Congress to abandon the Sportsmen’s Heritage and Recreational Enhancement Act (SHARE Act) and proposed laws that would force states to recognize concealed carry weapon permits from other states.
“We maintain the deeply held convictions that life is sacred, death and injury from gun violence is reducible, and there is a moral imperative to advance public policies that will make communities safer,” the coalition said. “We believe in the power of prayer, while acknowledging that prayer without action is inadequate.”
The coalition, formed after a 2011 shooting in Tucson, Ariz., that killed six and injured U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, also urged lawmakers to strengthen and expand background checks and reduce civilian access to military-style weapons like those used by Las Vegas shooting suspect Stephen Craig Paddock.
Police say Paddock, a 64-year-old former accountant, is the lone gunman responsible for firing into a crowd of 22,000 concert-goers at a country music festival on the Las Vegas Strip before killing himself.
Authorities found 23 rifles and one handgun inside his room on the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay hotel used as a sniper’s nest overlooking the Route 91 Harvest Festival, including AR-15 and AK-47-style rifles, and a large cache of ammunition. Police are still searching for a motive but say he had planned an escape route and may have been plotting similar attacks, including car bombings, with a 42-weapon arsenal amassed over the course of decades.
Police also found a bump-fire stock, a legal modification device originally designed to aid shooters with disabilities that can be used to make a semi-automatic weapon fire at speeds similar to a fully automatic weapon. In a rare show of compromise, the NRA announced support for tougher regulation of bump stocks, a departure from the gun lobby’s usual resistance to restrictions on the right to bear arms established by the Second Amendment.
The Las Vegas attack was the 273rd mass shooting, defined as at least four people killed or injured, in 2017.
While humans killing other humans is as old as the Old Testament story of Cain and Abel, the killing spree associated with today’s mass shootings wasn’t attainable until the advent of modern military weaponry.
Howard Unruh’s 1949 “Walk of Death” through Camden, N.J., killing 13 people is generally regarded the first modern mass murder, but for decades many thought it was an isolated incident unlikely to ever happen again.
Some mark the 1966 sniper attack from a clock tower on the campus of the University of Texas in Austin as the beginning of the era of mass shootings.
A 1986 mass shooting attack inside a U.S. Postal Service facility in Edmond, Okla., introduced the phrase “going postal,” to the American vocabulary, a slang term describing extreme and uncontrollable anger, often to the point of violence.
A 1991 attack at a Luby’s Cafeteria in Killeen, Texas, left 23 dead and sparked a national debate on gun laws. Today it is fifth on the list of deadliest shootings.
Since high-profile school shootings at Westside Middle School in Jonesboro, Ark., in 1998 and the following year at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colo., and shortly thereafter at Wedgwood Baptist Church in Fort Worth, Texas, the rate of mass shootings has increased rapidly.
Faiths United to Prevent Gun Violence recently commemorated the one-year anniversary of the shooting at Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Fla., in 2016 and the two-year anniversary of the 2015 shooting at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, S.C., which both fell in the same week.
With Las Vegas, the 49 deaths in the 2016 Orlando shooting drops to second place on the list of deadliest shootings in the modern era. The 2007 shooting at Virginia Tech, with 32 fatalities, is No. 3, followed by the 27 deaths at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., which marks its fifth anniversary on Dec. 14.
The SHARE Act, a broad-ranging gun bill delayed in June after House GOP Whip Steve Scalise, R-La., and two Capitol Hill police officers were wounded by a gunman who opened fire on a congressional baseball practice session, would roll back decades-old restrictions on gun silencers.
The other major gun bill before the House of Representatives, concealed carry reciprocity, would allow people to carry concealed weapons in any state if it is allowed in the state where they live. Some states, such as California and New York, currently require applicants for such a permit to demonstrate a need and submit to background checks.