August 30, 2014

Elyria
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Prayers, calls for action at Elyria vigil for Connecticut shooting victims

ELYRIA — A Sunday candlelight vigil for the victims of the Newtown, Conn., elementary school massacre included prayer, a challenge to be better citizens, parents and relatives, and a call for stricter gun control.

About 80 people took part in the brief ceremony at Ely Square to honor the six adults and 20 children fatally shot Friday at the Sandy Hook Elementary School by gunman Adam Lanza who then fatally shot himself.

“Let us keep in mind the families that lost their children,” said the Rev. C. Roger Dickerson of the Association of Christian Therapists, who also mentioned the July massacre in Aurora, Colo., and last year’s massacre in Tucson, Ariz. “Jesus is able to remove all our dark clouds.”

Lanza, 20, didn’t have a Facebook page, according to the New York Times. Nonetheless, Sarah Spencer, the mother of two Elyria Schools middle school students and two high school students, said it’s important for parents to monitor their children’s Facebook pages for signs of potential suicidal or violent behavior.

“You guys have to stay involved and pay attention,” Spencer told the crowd as she fought back tears. “We’re letting computers (and) the streets raise our kids. We’re letting the television raise our children.”

Lanza was described by classmates as a loner who may have suffered from mental illness. Ernestine Burke said people also have to look out for adults who may show signs of depression, loneliness or mental illness.

“We have to be global citizens. If God only wanted Adam on the earth he would’ve stopped when he created him,” she told the crowd. “We are here to be a community. Not to be alone.”

Officials said Lanza used an Bushmaster .223-caliber semiautomatic rifle to fire up to 11 bullets into each victim. The rifle — the civilian version of the military M-16 rifle — has a maximum effective range of between 400 and 600 yards. James Holmes, the shooter in the Aurora massacre, used an AR-15 equipped with a 100-round drum.

After the vigil, Burke called for a renewal of the assault weapons ban, which expired in 2004. The law banned semiautomatic rifles with high-capacity magazines. Through July, there have been 457 shootings involving semiautomatic rifles since the ban expired, according to the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence.

“You’re not going to hunt a deer with an AK-47,” Burke said. “We don’t need assault rifles.”

The ban also made illegal high-capacity magazines for semiautomatic pistols such as the kind used by Tucson shooter Jared Loughner and Cho Seung-Hui, the shooter in the 2007 Virginia Tech massacre, which killed 32, America’s deadliest school shooting.

Vigil co-organizer Tracy Wolford said she favors banning high-capacity magazines for pistols as well as semiautomatic rifles

“I don’t want to take away anybody’s quote, end quote, Second Amendment rights, but this is ridiculous,” she said as she wiped away tears. “There’s not a kid that was killed there that was over 7 years old.”

Contact Evan Goodenow at 329-7129 or egoodenow@chroniclet.com.