American Jewish groups have condemned the deadly shooting spree in Las Vegas on Sunday night and called for gun control measures, saying it is “well past time”.
It follows a terrorist attack by a single shooter, Stephen Paddock, who fired on concertgoers from a hotel room on the 32nd floor of a nearby casino, killing 59 people and injuring more than 500 before police finally stormed in.
Paddock, 64, was described by his brother as a multi-millionaire property developer who liked to gamble. He was found with 23 guns in his hotel room. Authorities later found 19 more guns at his home, together with thousands of rounds of ammunition.
By Monday evening, the Israeli Foreign Ministry were still trying to reach eight Israeli who are believed to have been in Las Vegas at the time of the shooting and who remain unaccounted for. Israel’s consul-general, based in Los Angeles, has flown to the gambling mecca to help in the search.
Meanwhile the Anti-Defamation League, B’nai B’rith International, the National Council of Jewish Women and the Union for Reform Judaism all called for tougher gun control laws in the immediate aftermath of the attack.
And while the World Jewish Congress, Jewish Council for Public Affairs and Jewish Federations of North America condemned the deadliest mass shooting in modern American history, they stopped short of the charged U.S. debate about gun laws.
“Our prayers must be followed by action, long overdue limits to the easy access to fire arms,” said Reform president Rabbi Rick Jacobs, capturing the mood, while ADL director Jonathan Greenblatt called for “tough, effective gun violence prevention measures,” adding that the threat of mass violence “has not abated”.
Meanwhile B’nai B’rith was equally forthright, saying it was “well past time for meaningful, bipartisan gun violence legislation in this country,” adding: “There is no need for civilians to have access to large rounds of ammunition.”
Among those left mourning the dead country music fans were members of the city’s sizeable Jewish community, which numbers 70,000 and comprises 19 synagogues, according to local websites.
In the UK, religious and communal leaders paid their respects and urge a dignified response. Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis said: “Each of us faces a choice: either join in with the inevitable chorus of raging recriminations and counter-recriminations, or resolve to honour the victims and their families, and defy the wishes of the perpetrator, by spreading a message of hope and peace. I urge you to join me in choosing the latter.”
Senior Reform Rabbi Laura Janner-Klausner said: “We join the Reform community of Temple Sinai in Las Vegas and people of all faiths and none in sending wishes of hope, strength and solidarity. May the One who brings peace in the highest, bring peace to us and to all Israel and to the whole world.”
The Board of Deputies tweeted: “We express sorrow for & solidarity w/ the American people following the senseless killing of innocent people in Las Vegas.”
U.S. police were this week investigating the killer’s background and motivations, but the FBI said that Paddock had “no connection” to international terrorism. Paddock’s brother Eric said the family had “no idea” about the motive, adding: “We’re horrified.”