BATTLE CREEK, Mich. — When Father Brian Coleman woke up this morning he said his phone was buzzing with news about the tragedy in Las Vegas. He read the stories one by one and shook his head.
“Here we go again,” said Father Brian, as everyone calls him. “Obviously devastated for the families that the grief and the pain that they’re going to experience.”
Authorities in Las Vegas said Sunday night a gunman identified by police as Stephen Paddock opened fire on a country-music festival from a 32nd floor of the nearby Mandalay Bay hotel. Dozens of people were killed, police said, and over 500 were injured.
“There’s no reason why anyone should have in their possession enough fire power to kill and injure over 400 people,” said Father Brian during an interview at his church St. Thomas Episcopal Church. “I just can’t imagine how that makes sense to anyone particularly legislators.”
The same horror Father Brian felt Monday morning is what he felt last year when he transformed the sanctuary at his church into a makeshift memorial. He posted pictures of each of the victims of mass shootings that year, including the six people killed during the Kalamazoo Shooting spree February 2016. By year’s end, he had over 400 pictures posted.
“Some of them we did know of course but most of them you don’t know,” said Father Brian. “You look into their eyes, you look at their photograph, you build a connection.”
At the beginning of 2017, Father Brian said the church took them down. The pain of seeing them day in and day out was too much to bare. Sometimes when he looked at them all he could think about was how preventable the shootings couldn't been. There are solutions out there he said.
“I think it’s a two-pronged approach,” Father Brian said. “Dealing seriously with mental illness in our community. And putting restrictions on the kinds of weapons and the volume of ammunition that people can access.”
Father Brian believes that until both are achieved the shootings will continue to happen. The issue is not in the hands of the lawmakers.
“This is something that we can avoid,” said Father Brian. “This is something that we don’t have to live with.”