Aug. 4 was a somber Sunday across the U.S., when nine people died in a mass shooting in Dayton, Ohio, just hours after 22 people died in another shooting in El Paso, Texas. Jennie Rosado, who attended Mass at the Iglesia Ciudad de Refugio in Glen Cove, said her congregation was not only saddened by the news, but also worried after media outlets reported that the El Paso shooter was specifically targeting Latino immigrants.
“There’s a lot of hate nowadays, and we need to unite to stand against it and remind ourselves that we are one community,” Rosado said.
That was what Glen Cove Mayor Timothy Tenke had in mind when he announced a candlelight vigil for the 31 victims of the shootings on Aug. 8 at the Robert M. Finley Middle School. Tenke, who invited local religious leaders to help unite the attendees, said he was tired of the mass shootings that continue to plague the country.
According to the Gun Violence Archive, which tracks every shooting in which four or more people are killed or injured, there have been more than 255 such shootings in 2019. The year is on track to become the first since 2016 to average more than one mass shooting per day.
“Is this the new norm in our country?” Tenke asked. “How many of us are now afraid to go to a mall, the movie theater or even our own church because of this?”
“It’s saddening and disappointing that this keeps happening in America,” said John Blazich, a boy scout of Glen Cove Troop 6.
After dozens of residents gathered for the vigil, the city held a moment of silence as the names of all 31 victims were read. The Rev. Juanita Lopez, of Iglesia Ciudad de Refugio, asked the attendees to hold hands and introduce themselves to one another as a show of unity. Lopez said she believed that the racist ideology espoused by the shooter in El Paso attack has threatened to divide communities, so she asked her neighbors to fight racism and remind themselves that they all love the same city and country.
Rabbi Irwin Huberman, of Glen Cove’s Congregation Tifereth Israel, echoed these words. When he heard about the shootings, Huberman said, he had a sense of apathy, fearing that nothing would ever be done to curb the frequency of violent attacks in the U.S.
“I’ve been to Parkland and Sandy Hook,” he said. “Nothing was done after that, so I thought, ‘What’s the use?’ All people ever do is offer their thoughts and prayers.”
It wasn’t until Huberman paid a visit to the Rev. Roger Williams of the First Baptist Church of Glen Cove that he regained his hope, he said, which was the most important thing to hold on to amid tragedy. But, like Tenke, Huberman noted the need for gun reform, saying there was no need for civilians to own semi-automatic weapons. He said that those like the El Paso shooter, who published a manifesto online, follow a doctrine of white supremacy that always ends with violence.
“When people like that talk about an ‘invading army’ … they’re talking about African-Americans, Hispanics, Jews and Muslims,” Huberman said. “We need to put an end to this. Thoughts and prayers must be combined with action.”
State Sen. Jim Gaughran, who held a rally on Aug. 7 to advocate “common-sense” gun reform, said the U.S. was seeing an epidemic of gun violence. U.S. Rep. Tom Suozzi, who joined Gaughran at the rally, said that there was a growing sense of urgency to pass gun control laws in Congress. Gaughran said that things could improve if more laws like those recently passed in New York were enacted.
“This year, New York led the way by passing common-sense gun reforms to protect our children and the public,” Gaughran said, “including a red flag law, expanded background checks and safe-storage laws. Now Washington must step up and follow our lead.”