By Kathleen Moore
The Fourth Annual National Vigil for All Victims of Gun Violence will take place December 14 from 7:00 to 8:00 pm at St. Mark’s, Capitol Hill. December 14 is the fourth anniversary of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown, Connecticut. Since the shooting, an estimated 120,000 people have died from gun fire in the United States, and another 300,000 have been wounded, sponsors of the vigil say.
St. Mark’s, along with the Newtown Foundation, Faiths United to Prevent Gun Violence, States United to Prevent Gun Violence, the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence and Organizing for Action, are bringing families of victims and survivors of gun violence from Newtown and around the country to Washington for the vigil, which is part of Gun Violence Prevention Sabbath Weekend.
This year’s vigil is taking place during a time of uncertainty in the wake of the recent Presidential election. “These families of gun violence victims come from all over the country, and they’ve used their personal tragedy to advocate so that no one else has to have this tragedy again,” says the Rev. Justi Schunior, associate rector at St. Mark’s. “This year, because of the election, they’re feeling very vulnerable. It’s a scary time for the gun violence prevention community, because it is unclear where this is going to be as a priority for activism in Congress. So, my goal for this year’s vigil is to surround these families with love and support.”
St. Mark’s initially became involved with the National Vigil in 2014, when last-minute meeting space was needed for the two associated days of lobbying. “The first year when we offered meeting space, there were only a handful of volunteers, but it was really powerful,” Schunior says. “Then, when we hosted the vigil last year, we had about 100 volunteers. This year, we have even more involvement and ownership. It’s just really exciting.”
Schunior notes the congregation’s involvement in the vigil is part of its growing activism. “I feel something new going on in the parish around wanting to take part in changing this culture of violence and racism,” Schunior says. “When I gather people together, they tell me, ‘We need to do something.’ I feel a new energy. And I hope that after the vigil, we come back and say ‘Well, what does this mean for us throughout the year?’”
Those planning on attending the National Vigil at St. Mark’s are asked to register in advance online. Congregations are also invited to pledge participation in the Gun Violence Prevention Sabbath Weekend.