The Rev. Al Sharpton called for stricter gun measures as he joined the Connecticut State Missionary Baptist Convention on Tuesday at Zion Baptist Church for a prayer vigil and service for the victims and survivors of the Newtown tragedy.
In a sermon to a highly emotional and energized crowd days after the Newtown shooting, Sharpton said, "These guns must be challenged by all of those who respect human life.
"We must send a united message to this country to stop making easy access of high-powered weapons and stop cutting mental illness programs," Sharpton said. "We have to stand together and stop it now."
Sharpton is a nationally known civil rights activist and host of "Politics Nation" on MSNBC.
Nationwide, there has risen an increasingly heated dialogue about gun violence and gun control after Adam Lanza, 20, went into a Newtown school and launched a massive shooting spree, killing 20 children and six adults.
A diverse crowd attended the vigil, including leaders of the Jewish, Christian and Islamic faiths.
Zion Baptist Church's pastor, the Rev. Calbert R. Brantley, who organized the interfaith vigil and was instrumental with Sharpton's visit, said, "This may not have happened in our backyard, but this tragedy makes all of us realize we have the same back yard,"
When asked why his church was chosen to accommodate the vigil, Brantley said, "Our church has always held a prominent place in the life of Waterbury; we are the largest black church in the city and have been at the forefront of human and civil rights.
"We are a global faith community, so we wanted to send a global message, because this impacts all people and all faiths."
Calbert also noted about the diversity of clergy leaders, saying, "When we look in this church tonight we see there is diversity in God."
The Rev. Boise Kimber, president of the Connecticut State Missionary Baptist Convention and pastor of First Calvary Baptist Church in New Haven, said about the prayer vigil and service:
"Tonight we come here in solidarity with our brother and sister up the street to let you know your pain is our pain and your hurt is our hurt."
Kimber spoke to about 500 participants who came to rally their support for the families of Newtown.
Obama and others have now alluded to the need for new gun-control legislation in the aftermath of the tragedy in Newtown, and Kimber said at the Tuesday vigil, "Aren't you glad that America wants to have a serious dialogue about guns in this country?"
With enormity of media attention focused on the bloodshed in Newtown, Sharpton said he and Kimber are committed to end gun violence in our communities and the need to watch for copycats with mental conditions.
"Some copycat right now is looking at the tragedy in Newtown to start more violence in our communities," Sharpton explained. "They put people with mental conditions in the streets with weapons to kill."
Sharpton's message was also a reminder to the Baptist parishioners that faith is not just saying, but it's also doing.
"You can talk about how holy you are, but nobody in the Bible is there for acting holy; they are there for doing something holy," he said. "I'm here tonight because the little ones were hurt."
Victoria Soto, 27, a teacher who has been hailed as a hero because her decisive actions saved numerous children's lives.
Sharpton explained, alluding to Soto, "People stood in the face of death to protect other people's children. And here you are sitting here in church tonight and calling yourself saved, but won't stand up for what's right."
Breaking the culture of violence can be a difficult task when parents endorse the behavior.
"Everybody needs to be committed to end this culture of violence, but many of us are going to put toy guns under our Christmas trees this year for our young boys," Sharpton added.
"We produce gang-bangers when we plant these seeds of violence in our children. Why are we surprised when they commit acts of violence?" he said.
"All of us need to come together, black and white, because all of our babies are hurting,"
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