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Hyde Park church hosts vigil for victims of gun violence nationwide

Vigil held for victims and survivors of gun violence nationwide
Vigil held for victims and survivors of gun violence nationwide 03:04

CHICAGO (CBS) -- A Hyde Park church hosted the 10th Annual National Vigil for All Victims and Survivors of Gun Violence on Sunday, honoring lives lost to gun violence across our nation and our city, at a time of year when many families will have an empty seat at their holiday dinner tables.

Those families fighting to stop the violence gathered at Augustana Lutheran Church, where the faces of people who lost their lives to gun violence were on display.

Those who lost loved ones to gun violence also called on more mental health resources, a national ban on assault weapons, and above all for lawmakers to listen to their stories.

Loved ones lit candles as they honored the approximately 6,600 lives the Chicago Survivors Organization estimates have been lost to gun violence in the U.S. since the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in 2012.

Phyllis Duncan lost her son, 21-year-old Dodavah Ben-Joshua Duncan to a drive-by shooting.

"I will never know who took my son's life, or why his life was taken," she said.

She does know what she has to do now. She started a support group called Mothers of Murdered Sons.

"The first day that we had our meeting, I had walked out the room to go to the bathroom; when I came back in, it had to be at least 50 women," she said.

10th annual national vigil for victims of gun violence 02:04

Activists who attended the vigil offered support, forgiveness, and understanding.

Xavier McElrath-Bey was convicted of murder at age 13, in the slaying of 14-year-old Pedro Martinez, who was beaten to death because he was the suspected member of a rival gang.

Martinez's picture sat on an altar at Augustana Lutheran Church as his family sat in the pews.

"Pedro deserved better, but I also wanted to say that little Xavier, he deserved better too. All of our kids deserve better," McElrath-Bey said at the vigil.

Martinez's family hugged Xavier, with a message.

"I hope that they continue to remember that no child is born bad, and every child has a capacity for positive change," McElrath-Bey said.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot attended the vigil. She said she would be lobbying at the city, state, and federal level for funds to support families of victims of gun violence. Details on that remain to be seen.

Organizers said they hosted the vigil in December, because of the holidays, especially as victims' surviving families have an empty seat at their holiday table. They're hoping that, by getting together, it will further the push to ban assault weapons across the country.

"We have to change the way we see gun violence. We have to have a lot more respect for the guns. We are not anti-gun possession. We are anti-crime possession," said Maria Pike, with Moms Demand Action.

On Monday, the Illinois House Judiciary Committee is expected to hold its first hearing on the Protect Illinois Communities Act, which would ban assault weapons across the state.

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