CRANBURY, NJ – The bells of St. David’s Episcopal Church on South Main Street tolled 60 times at noon Tuesday in remembrance of the 59-people murdered in Las Vegas, Nevada, Sunday night, and once for their slain killer.
“At noon (Tuesday), 14 people gathered to pray for and acknowledge the 60 lives lost in the Las Vegas shooting,” St. David’s Senior Warden Carol Rodgers said in an email. “We rang our bell, located right outside our Memorial Garden, 60 times. Fifty-nine times for the 59 victims and once for the perpetrator. Our prayers extended to all those touched by this terrible massacre. It is so hard to say 'never again' when our laws are so pro-gun ownership.”
St. David’s was one of dozens of Episcopal churches throughout the state and country taking part in the ceremony marking the deadliest mass shooting in modern American history.
According to Las Vegas Police, Stephen Craig Paddock, 64, of Mesquite, Nevada, opened fire with an automatic rifle from the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay Hotel and Casino on the “Strip” at 10:08 p.m. local time Sunday night, sending a hail of bullets into an estimated crowd of 22,000 people attending the Route 91 Harvest Festival concert across the street.
The ensuing carnage killed 59 and wounded more than 520, as concert-goers ran and scattered throughout the venue seeking cover from the 10-15-minute barrage of gunfire.
The Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department is working to process the crime scene across from the Mandalay Bay Hotel and investigate the motives of the shooter, Sheriff Joe Lombardo said at a press briefing on Monday afternoon.
Police and SWAT units responded to the call, breached the hotel room, and found the suspect dead from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound, police said.
The Episcopal Diocese of New Jersey, who participated in Tuesday’s memorial event, published a statement on behalf of the Bishops Against Gun Violence, a group of more than 70 bishops working to curtail gun violence in America, according to the group.
“We share in the grief and horror of people across our country and, indeed, around the world in the wake of (Sunday) night’s mass shooting in Las Vegas,” the group’s statement said. “We have spoken with our Bishops United Against Gun Violence colleague and brother in Christ, Bishop Dan Edwards of the Episcopal Diocese of Nevada, and we have offered him and the people of Nevada our prayers and promises of assistance. We stand in solidarity with the diocese and the people of Nevada as they cope with this massacre.”
“It has become clichéd at moments such as these to offer thoughts and prayers. But as Christians, we must reflect upon the mass killings that unfold with such regularity in our country. And we must pray: for the victims, for their loved ones, for all who attended to the victims in the immediacy of the shooting, for the first responders who do so much to mitigate the awful effects of these shootings, and for the medical personnel who will labor for many days to save the wounded,” the statement continued. “We must also enter into the sorrow of those who are most deeply affected by our country’s cripplingly frequent outbursts of lethal gun violence. We must consider our own hearts and examine the ways in which we are culpable or complicit in the gun violence that surrounds us every day.”
The group asks lawmakers “to remove such weapons from civilians’ hands.”
“Even as we hold our lawmakers accountable, though, we must acknowledge that a comprehensive solution to gun violence, whether it comes in the form of mass shootings, street violence, domestic violence, or suicide, will not simply be a matter of changing laws, but of changing lives,” the statement said. “Our country is feasting on anger that fuels rage, alienation and loneliness. From the White House to the halls of Congress to our own towns and perhaps at our own tables, we nurse grudges and resentments rather than cultivating the respect, concern, and affection that each of us owes to the other. The leaders who should be speaking to us of reconciliation and the justice that must precede it too often instead stoke flames of division and mistrust. We must, as a nation, embrace prayerful resistance before our worse impulses consume us.”
In a statement Monday, U.S. Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman, D-12, also called for federal lawmakers to take action on gun control in the wake of the shooting.
“This morning (Monday), our nation awoke with grief and despair after learning of the largest mass shooting in our modern history. We will forever hold in our hearts the men and women who tragically and unjustly lost their lives and pray for healing for the wounded, missing and their loved ones,” her statement said. “There are no words for this intentional act of evil and as the investigation continues to unfold I must express my desperation for Congress to take on gun safety reform. Dotted across our map are harrowing accounts of gun violence that have devastated communities – tragedies that claim more and more lives of the innocent with every breaking news report. There is nothing left to debate. The line has to be drawn – school children were not enough, Members of Congress were not enough, churchgoers at Bible Study were not enough, adults going out to a nightclub was not enough – what will it take?”