CANTON, Ohio — Members of the community gathered at Congregational United Church of Christ in Canton Saturday for a vigil honoring those lost in the mass shootings in Buffalo, New York and Uvalde, Texas.
A total of 31 people were killed in the massacres that took place less than two weeks apart. The church scheduled the gathering not only to pray for the victims and their families, but to also call for "an end to the public health epidemic of gun violence in our country."
"We are the only place in the world where this happens," the church wrote. "Other countries have mental health issues. Other countries have extremists. Other countries have isolated and confused citizens too. What they do not have are readily available AR-15 assault rifles and countless other guns."
Behind the speakers, 19 small chairs and two adult chairs sat by the road, each seat corresponding to a very real name coming from a once lively classroom. They are now within ear's reach of people asking for change, including members of Moms Demand Action, a group asking for tightening restrictions on guns.
"I just have a question for the NRA and the other pro-gun organizations," one speaker said. "You've been promising us for more than 15 years that the more guns our citizens carry, the safer we will all be. When does that kick in exactly?"
Three pastors, members of Moms Demand Action, teachers, and even a 15-year-old girl came up to speak, the teen remembering the fear she felt as a neighboring school went on lockdown with her friends inside.