Statement from St. Bart’s rector regarding the mass shooting in Las Vegas, Nevada

Posted Oct 3, 2017

[St. Bart’s Episcopal Church – New York]

Dear Friends, 

As I begin this letter, I realize how many letters I’ve written to the people of God in the face of horrific events related to gun violence. Last night, at least 58 people were killed, and more than 500 were injured, while attending a music festival in Las Vegas, Nevada. A gunman, firing an automatic weapon from a hotel window, sprayed the crowd of 22,000 with bullets. 

It is one of the worst mass casualty incidents in U.S. history.

The letters I have written over the years have too many of the same components. Thoughts and prayers for the victims and their families. Profound thanks to the brave first responders who, in some cases, have put themselves in harm’s way to protect the innocent and care for the fallen. Recognition of persons who have exhibited extraordinary heroism. And finally, a plea for reasonable, sane, gun laws which do not eliminate gun ownership, but regulate the use of guns through registration and limit the civilian ownership of weapons designed for military use. 

By now, there is a familiar pattern to the exchange between the gun manufacturers’ lobbyists and those who advocate for stronger gun controls in the wake of these incidents. On the day of these shootings, and for several days afterwards, those opposing gun control will say, “Now is not the time to be discussing public policy or legislation. Now is not the time to discuss political responses.” Now, they argue, is a time for mourning to express our deep respect for the victims. 

But I can think of no more appropriate way to respect the victims of this grotesque act of mass violence than to speak candidly about the conditions which contributed to their deaths. No, we will never stop all gun-related deaths, and yes, there will always be people who seek to hurt and destroy others. But the number of gun-related deaths in our country has become as staggering as it is unacceptable. Here is an amazing fact:

“Since 1970 more Americans have died from guns (including suicides, murders, and accidents) than the sum total of all the Americans who died in all the wars in American history, back to the American Revolution.” [1]

It’s hard to believe, but here is a list of some of the mass shootings related to guns in the United States since late 2012:

  • July 12, 2016, Orlando, 50 dead, 53 injured.
  • July 7, 2016, Dallas, 5 dead.
  • December 2, 2015, San Bernardino, 14 dead, 17 injured.
  • November 27, 2015, Colorado Springs, 3 dead.
  • October 1, 2015, Roseburg, Oregon, 10 dead.
  • July 16, 2015, Chattanooga, Tennessee, 5 dead.
  • June 17, 2015, Charleston, South Carolina, 9 dead.
  • May 23, 2015, Isla Vista, California, 7 dead.
  • October 24, 2014, Marysville, Washington, 4 dead.
  • April 2, 2014, Killeen, Texas, 3 dead, 16 injured.
  • September 16, 2013, Washington, D.C., Navy Yards, 13 dead.
  • June 7, 2013, Santa Monica, California, 5 dead.
  • December 14, 2012, Newtown, Connecticut, 28 dead. [2]

There are a variety of causes for these tragedies, but they all have a common denominator: easily accessible firearms with little regulation. 

I invite you to offer your deepest prayers for those whose lives have been taken in this most recent tragedy. Pray for those who have lost husbands and wives, mothers and fathers, boyfriends and girlfriends, sons and daughters. Pray for our legislators and public officials who form our public policies. 

I also invite you to write your elected representatives and make your voices as loud as the National Rifle Association’s voice. Let us make our voices as powerful as our prayers.


The Right Reverend Dean Elliott Wolfe, D.D.

Rector of St. Bart’s Episcopal Church

New York, New York

[1] New York Times, October 2, 2017, Opinion Section, Preventing Mass Shootings Like the Vegas Strip Attack, by Nicholas Kristof

[2] New York Times, October 2, 2017, Top Stories Section, Mass Shootings in the U.S. by Julie Turkewitz