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Interfaith service focuses on gun control

Brian Portillo, a member of St. Martha's Roman

Brian Portillo, a member of St. Martha's Roman Catholic Church youth group, places a rose to "remember, resolve and respond" during today's interfaith peace service in Uniondale. (Dec. 8, 2013) Credit: Newsday / Audrey C. Tiernan

An interfaith prayer service in Uniondale on Sunday remembered the victims of two mass shootings separated by two decades but connected by the same vexing question -- what can be done to stem similar random carnage in the future?

The theme of the service at St. Martha's Catholic Church was "remember, resolve and respond." It commemorated the 20th anniversary of the Long Island Rail Road shooting on Dec. 7, 1993, which left six dead and 19 injured, and the upcoming first anniversary of the Dec. 14 Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings, which killed 20 children and six educators.

The Rev. Mark Lukens of Bethany Congregational United Church of Christ in East Rockaway and chairman of the Long Island Interfaith Alliance, called for "sensible controls on firearms," in a stirring sermon.

He compared the swift government action to more strictly regulate the country's airwaves after singer Janet Jackson's infamous Super Bowl wardrobe malfunction with the largely unsuccessful efforts for gun control after Sandy Hook and other recent mass shootings.

"In contrast to the outrage surrounding Ms. Jackson's wardrobe malfunction there was no unity in response to this . . . no comprehensive action . . . not after Newtown, or Virginia Tech or Aurora," he said. "Something is terribly wrong when even the most basic restrictions on weapons of death are harder to get than a six-second delay on the Super Bowl halftime."

Organized by the InSight Campaign to End Gun Violence, an initiative of Pax Christi Long Island, the service, which was attended by about 75 people, featured speakers from the Islamic Center of Long Island, the Council of Black Clergy and Temple Judea.

Former NYPD Det. Steven McDonald, paralyzed after he was shot on patrol in Central Park in 1986, spoke of his deep faith, how he forgave his perpetrator and what he says is the key to stopping gun killings: embracing religion.

"I think if we do that, we'll put down the guns," said the Malverne resident, who uses a wheelchair.

Sister Rosalie Carven, an InSight Campaign committee member, said the service was part of a comprehensive plan to engage the community to stem gun violence. "We know that when mass shootings happen, there is a brouhaha . . . We have to do something that is more long term," she said.

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