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Utah religious leaders say 'no more' to deaths from gun violence

Rabbi Sam Spector, of Congregation Kol Ami, lights a candle honoring the recent shooting victims of Uvalde, Texas, Buffalo, New York, Laguna Woods, California, and Tulsa, Oklahoma, at First Baptist Church in Salt Lake City on Friday.

Rabbi Sam Spector, of Congregation Kol Ami, lights a candle honoring the recent shooting victims of Uvalde, Texas, Buffalo, New York, Laguna Woods, California, and Tulsa, Oklahoma, at First Baptist Church in Salt Lake City on Friday. (Kristin Murphy, Deseret News)


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Estimated read time: 4-5 minutes

SALT LAKE CITY — A group of Utah religious leaders lit candles at First Baptist Church while naming recent mass shooting victims from Uvalde, Texas; Buffalo, New York; Laguna Woods, California, and Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Between each name they quietly said, "No more."

The religious leaders from various faiths on Friday asked Utah lawmakers to "heed our cries of war and to do what is right and just."

Rev. Curtis Price, pastor at the First Baptist Church in Salt Lake City, said it is an issue of keeping families safe and loving neighbors. He said it is frustrating and infuriating that change is taking so long. The religious leaders prayed, but they also focused on action.

"We have gathered here to pray, yes, but to also follow up those prayers with demands," the Rev. Price said. "As people of faith we know that how prayer is answered is by people responding to a call. To our legislators here in the state of Utah we say this is your call, and we are asking, we are pleading, we are demanding that you answer."

The religious leaders specifically asked for legislators to address universal background checks, extreme protective orders like red flag laws, gun violence interruption funding, gun suicide, ghost guns and military-style weapons and high capacity magazines.

As each request was read, the group prayed, "Lord, hear our demand and cause our policymakers to listen."

Rabbi Sam Spector of Congregation Kol Ami said the Jewish faith teaches that when prayers are not followed up by action, it is a sin, and a violation of duty to God. He said to politicians and leaders who offer prayers and thoughts, they should also act.

He also said the Bible's book of Deuteronomy teaches that people should take every precaution to prevent danger, which should include laws preventing gun violence.

"What would our sacred scriptures, what would our spiritual prophets and leaders say today about gun violence? We know that they say do not stand idly by when your neighbor's blood is shed and yet after Sandy Hook, we saw that our country said, 'We love our children but not as much as our firearms,'" Rabbi Spector said.

The rabbi said he was 11 when there was a shooting at Columbine High School, which led to his first active shooter training. This year, he is organizing mandatory active shooter drills for his congregation and staff almost every month. He said he spent half of Thursday on the phone with the FBI, after receiving a second death threat for the week.

"While the government has in other cases said, 'Let us keep you safe,' what they told us … was, 'Here's what you do when somebody walks into your store, your place of worship. Now we give you the tools, now you figure it out,'" Rabbi Spector said.

He said he broke down in tears while preparing a sermon for the first time last week, because he was planning to talk about the shooting in Texas and someone asked him if he was going to include the shooting in Buffalo, New York, and he had forgotten about it, just a week later.

"This happens so often here that it no longer stands out in my mind," he said.

Carolyn Tuft, leader of the Utah chapter of Moms Demand Action, spoke about her experience as a survivor of the 2007 mass shooting at Trolley Square. Her 15-year-old daughter, Kirsten Hinckley, was shot and killed while they were shopping for Valentines Day.

Tuft was shot three times, and she said lead from over 450 pellets that are still inside her body is slowly killing her. She is always in extreme pain. She also said there are other consequences that are often forgotten. In addition to losing a child, she lost her home and her business because she was not able to work.

She said 110 Americans are killed by gun violence daily and another 200 are wounded.

"We shouldn't still be dealing with this. We shouldn't live in daily trauma to send our kids to school, or to buy valentines, or to go to a playground, or go to a church," Tuft said.

She said her response to hearing about recent shootings is anger and sadness.

"I'm just so angry that we're still doing this. ... We need action, we need them to actually do something," Tuft said.

The church leaders at the vigil specifically asked Utah Sen. Mitt Romney to step up and help the state be a leader in an effort to reform gun safety laws.

"We are asking you in particular to lead, gather up the fortitude and strength, and lead as someone who has been called to be an answer to prayer," Price said.

The vigil was held at the same time Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall announced a gun buyback program.

"We all stand together, we all want the same things, and we are working toward that," the Rev. Price said.

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Emily Ashcraft joined KSL.com as a reporter in 2021. She covers courts and legal affairs, as well as health, faith and religion news.

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