Rabbi Lustig: Gun Violence Prayer Vigil Remarks

Rabbi M. Bruce Lustig

On Tuesday, October 3, Rabbi Lustig joined local and national religious leaders from many faiths at the Washington National Cathedral for a prayer vigil urging a national conversation to end to gun violence. After the Cathedral’s funeral bell tolled 60 times, once for each life lost outside the Mandalay Bay Hotel in Las Vegas during the deadliest mass shooting in American history and once for the shooter, Rabbi Lustig spoke to those assembled. We are honored to share his remarks.

Our hearts are with all who lost loved ones in the senseless act of gun violence. May the wounded of body and mind find healing. And may we find the courage – as parents, as citizens, as children of one human family created in the image of God – to act and demand that we change the focus of our legislation.

It is wrong for our laws to protect the rights of individuals to have and own guns and fail to protect the rest of us from the violence those guns bring. If we have not learned from the lives of 59 of our fellow American sons and daughters, mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers that the right to safety and the right to life morally supersede the right to bear arms, then we are a nation that is in moral crisis.

There is no gun violence without guns. There are no bullet wounds in human bodies without bullets. Complicity means to be an accomplice to a crime. When one fails to stop a crime one could prevent, one is complicit. There will be no change unless we recognize that we are all complicit – we are accomplices to gun violence until we do what is necessary to protect the citizens of our nation.

As we stand once again to consider our moral responsibility after such a horrific event, we must ask ourselves hard questions. The biblical verse, “Do not stand idly by while your neighbor’s blood is shed,” is an admonishment to humanity that to fail to act, to be silent as a bystander and do nothing is to be complicit. For our leaders: to fail to enact new legislation to protect our right to live free from gun violence is to be complicit to this crime. This is a moral failure we cannot afford.

In Las Vegas, men and women had the courage to protect their fellow citizens, to carry them to safety. We who witness this moment must find the courage to carry our nation into a future that ends gun violence, that protects not only the rights of citizens to bear arms but also protects the rights of citizens not to fear the carnage that bearing arms has brought. We cannot remain silent.

Eternal One who gives us life, give us the courage to protect the soul of our nation.

Also speaking at the vigil were Rev. Thomas Bowen, D.C. Mayor’s Office of Religious Affairs; Bishop Mariann Edgar Budde, Episcopal Diocese of Washington; Bishop Roy Edward Campbell Jr., Archdiocese of Washington; Rev. Canon Jan Naylor Cope, Washington National Cathedral; Hurunnessa Fariad, All Dulles Area Muslim Society; Rev. Ginger Gaines-Cerelli, Foundry United Methodist Church; Rabbi Jack Moline, Interfaith Alliance; Rabbi Jonah Pesner, Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism; Imam Albert Sabir, The Nation’s Mosque, Masjid Muhammad; and Jim Winkler, National Council of Churches; Earl Yates, Shiloh Baptist Church.


The prayer vigil was live-streamed by Washington National Cathedral: