Sunset gun violence vigil set for Frisco on Friday
December 10, 2015
Victims of gun violence will be honored during a vigil this Friday at the Frisco Historic Park. The event, which is being sponsored by the Summit Interfaith Council, begins at 4:30 p.m.
Inspired by the National Gun Violence Prevention Sabbath Weekend, the vigil marks the third anniversary of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting. On Dec. 14, 2012, Adam Lanza shot and killed 20 students and six adult staff members in Newtown, Connecticut. The gathering will honor all victims of gun violence in Colorado and across the U.S. It is suggested to bring battery-operated light sources for the sunset vigil.
Formed earlier this year, the Summit Interfaith Council is a multi-denominational group that aims to spark conversation within the faith communities in Summit County around topics relating to human needs. Diane Luellen, Lord of the Mountains Lutheran Church in Dillon parishioner, said this is the first event the group is promoting.
"The council started in the spring when folks throughout the county recognized there was a value in conversation between different faiths," she said.
Jonathan Knopf, vice president of the Synagogue of the Summit board, said the vigil would solemnly honor victims of pointless gun violence.
"We're pulling together all the religious organizations in the county," he said. "This is not a political protest or rally."
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Neither Luellen nor Knopf want to infringe on gun owners' Second Amendment rights.
"The goal is not to take guns away but find ways to reduce gun deaths and injuries," Luellen shared.
Describing himself as a gun owner and responsible hunter, Knopf said all sides of the gun debate should be involved to reach a solution to the seemingly never-ending barrage of mass-shooting headlines.
"I hope gun owners across Summit County support it, as well," he said. "The consensus needs to be had with all sides of the argument."
The website GunViolenceArchive.org collects daily data on the topic. The nonprofit was formed in 2013 to offer the public accurate information about gun-related violence in the U.S.
The numbers so far this year are on pace to eclipse 2014.
Cases of mass shootings — defined as incidents involving at least four victims — totaled 281 in 2014 but have already reached 312 thus far this year. The total number of gun accidents this year is over 49,000, with the number of gun-related deaths at more than 12,000. The number of gun-related injuries this year has topped 25,000.
Another statistic that has negatively trended this year is the number of children who are killed or injured by gun violence.
In 2014, 628 children aged 11 or younger perished or were wounded by guns. So far this year that figure has reached 650. Similarly, in 2014, a total of 2,372 children between the ages of 12 and 17 were negatively impacted by gun violence, thus far this year that figure is at 2,455.
The website also list incidents that have occurred in the last 72 hours. Just this week, on Dec. 8, there were a total of 58 cases of gun violence, which accounted for 45 people being injured and 14 deaths.
ADVANCING THE CONVERSATION
More than a year ago, Luellen got involved when LOTM formed the Task Force to Reduce Gun Violence, which advocates for policies to "help keep God's children safe from gun violence."
The Summit Interfaith Council began over-coffee talks between members of LOTM and St. John's Episcopal in Breckenridge. The initial conversations about how the churches could help promote each other's events and achieve mutual goals eventually brought members of Synagogue of the Summit and High Country Universalists on board.
Luellen said there is a statewide interfaith group called Colorado Faith Communities United To End Gun Violence that her group is partnering with to find consensus to address the continuing trend.
"It's an epidemic and getting worse all the time," she said. "It's unique to the U.S.; other developed countries have the same difficulties with mental health, stress and economic pressures but don't have the same incidences of gun violence."
Stressing the vigil is not a political rally to squash Second Amendment rights but instead a remembrance of those who have perished from gun violence, Knopf said he hopes a useful dialogue grows from the community gathering.
"We want the conversation to develop," he said.
The Summit Interfaith Council's mission is to bring together groups who may not otherwise converse to share ideas that could positively impact the community. Luellen said the council is still soliciting membership.
"It's open to any faith organizations that are interested," she said.
Knopf said he hopes a solution can be reached that doesn't compromise individual rights.
"Hopefully we can come up with a consensus that makes sense," he said. "We are optimistic people from all sides of the discussion can work together to enact sensible regulations that will stem the tide of gun violence."
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