‘Prayer is not enough’: Durbin issues call to action at Hyde Park vigil for victims of gun violence

The Sunday event was one of a series of vigils held across the country for the 10th annual National Vigil for All Victims and Survivors of Gun Violence.

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Sen. Dick Durbin speaks at a vigil honoring victims of gun violence at Augustana Lutheran Church in Hyde Park.

Emmanuel Camarillo/Sun-Times

Elected officials and community organizations called for more to be done to address gun laws and support survivors at a vigil honoring victims of gun violence in Hyde Park on Sunday.

“Ladies and gentlemen we have supermajorities in our House, our Senate and a Democratic governor. You can’t tell me that we can’t get an assault weapons ban going,” Mayor Lori Lightfoot told the dozens gathered at Augustana Lutheran Church.

Many brought photographs of friends and loved ones who were victims of gun violence.

The event was one of a series of vigils held across the country for the 10th annual National Vigil for All Victims and Survivors of Gun Violence, commemorating the 10th anniversary of the Sandy Hook mass shooting in Connecticut, when 20 elementary school children and six adults were killed.

Nancy Rotering, mayor of Highland Park, a city which experienced its own mass shooting on July 4, said those who survive shootings know that trauma doesn’t end when the bullets stop flying. “It lives in our bodies, a constant reminder with no respite,” she said.

“We honor mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, husbands, wives, cousins, grandparents, aunts, uncles, coparents, co-workers, neighbors, friends left behind in the wake of an epidemic of gun violence,” Rotering said.

“We don’t live in freedom if we allow the firepower of guns to dictate how we live and how we die,” Rotering said. “Gun violence is a uniquely American problem, it is a stain on our country. Is access to guns more important than living freely on our streets, in our schools in our communities?”

Sen. Dick Durbin said national laws need to change in order to make an impact locally, recalling the fatal shooting of Chicago Police Officer Ella French last year. The gun used to kill French was bought at a gun show in Indiana by a person with a clean record and then given to someone who was not legally allowed to have a weapon, he said.

“That’s the reality. We, of course, offer our prayers, and prayer is important. But in this case, prayer is not enough,” Durbin said. “We need to change the laws of America, we need to do it now.”

Others said more needs to be done to support victims’ families and called for increased funding for mental health services.

“We simply have not done enough to stop the violence. Our young people’s lives are worth it, yet we have not prevented the violence and therefore we have work to do,” said the Rev. Veronica Johnson of Hyde Park Union Church. “We should not be here today.”

The vigil at Augustana was organized locally by Moms Demand Action, Chicago Survivors and other anti-violence organizations.

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