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Las Vegas Gay Community Holds Prayer Vigil for Orlando Victims

Carrie Kaufman

Hundreds of people crammed into the Gay and Lesbian Community Center last night to offer prayer and lay out plans of action in response to the rampage early Sunday morning at Orlando’s Pulse nightclub.

As of this morning, 49 victims are dead, and 53 are injured, most of them critically.

The shooter had a semi-automatic assault rifle, and a magazine that could shoot 30 rounds of ammunition.

The gun that was used, the AR-15, was the same one that was used in Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012.

The vigil and call to action was put together by State Senator Pat Spearman and featured many candidates and community leaders. Almost all expressed support for Ballot Measure 1 – Background Checks for Gun Purchases.

All but one. Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman told the crowd last night that guns weren't the issue, that behavior was. She was literally booed and catcalled off the stage, with people yelling for assault weapons bans and chants for support of Question 1 echoing throughout the room.

But State Senator Pat Spearman told the crowd that the blame lay squarely at the feet of the NRA, which convinced the Bush Administration in 2004 to let the assault weapons ban expire.

Spearman repeated her statement's during her conversation with KNPR's State of Nevada Monday.

“We can no longer allow people to say it’s an attack on the Second Amendment. It’s not,” she said, "An AR-15 the only thing they can be used for is a weapon of war."

Spearman, who organized the event at the Center, exhorted the crowed to take action.

Former state senator Justin Jones also asked the crowd to put pressure on their elected officials to do more about gun control.

LISTEN: Justin Jones telling the audience about one of the victims of the shooting.

Pastor Charlotte Morgan gave an impassioned speech which ended with an audience chant, "Act up, show up, participate, end hate" - a reference to activism by the group Act Up, which put the AIDS crisis front and center in the late 1980s.

Executive Director of Battle Born Progress Annette Magnus told KNPR's State of Nevada that simple controls may not stop all murders but could stop at least some, and if even one was prevented it was worth it to her. 

"We have to stop praying about these things.... and we actually have to do something," she said, "It is obscene to me that in this country every single week there is a mass shooting. How is that the new normal?"

Athar Haseebullah of Masjid Ibrahim Mosque and Community Center said there are usually several messages left on the mosque's answering machine from people threatening violence against the community, but after the shooting in Orlando -- there were none.

Haseebullah said while that seems like a good thing, he believes it a sign of something else.

"It is really sad at the end of the day because what it shows is collectively as a nation and as a community we've become so desensitized to these acts whether they're committed by a Muslim or a non-Muslim," he said.  

More from the vigil:

Courtney Kravitz, violence prevention organizer for Battle Born Progress on why this is more than just a mass shooting but an epidemic.

Jolie Breslin, executive director at the Anti-Defamation League on how social media has changed the conversation.

Dennis McBride, Nevada State Museum Director on how the shooting has impacted him personally.

Chris Miller, Chair of the Clark County Democratic Party on the senselessness of the violence in Orlando.

State Senator Kelvin Atkinson on the gun violence that has touched his family. 

Ellen Spiegel, Assemblywoman, on gun control and mental health issues. 








State Senator Pat Spearman;  Annette Magnus, executive director, Battle Born Progress;  Athar Haseebullah of Masjid Ibrahim Mosque and Community Center

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(EDITOR'S NOTE: Carrie Kaufman no longer works for KNPR News. She left in April 2018)