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      Local religious groups zone in on gun violence

      COLUMBIA (WACH) -- Faith groups across the nation are zoning in on gun violence this weekend. A coalition of nearly 50 denominations and faith-based organizations is leading the national Gun Violence Prevention Sabbath Weekend.

      Local religious people gathered for breakfast at First Nazareth Baptist Church Friday to discuss ways of solving the problem in the Midlands.

      Gun violence permeates the United States, including South Carolina, where, according to the FBI, 70 percent of murders were committed using guns.

      Mayor Steve Benjamin invited Columbia's religious community to participate in the call to action in hopes that faith can create change in the face of violence.

      "There's power in prayer," said Benjamin. "And men and women who are motivated by the belief that there is a much higher power that we'll all have to answer to some day tend to have a way to solve problems that no one else can solve."

      Columbia Police took 500 guns off the streets last year and 900 in the past two years, according to Benjamin, yet people at the gun violence meeting believe something more needs to be done. They are asking what faith's role is in the solution.

      "It's as if our legislators are saying, 'Guns are a better solution than the way of faith,'" said the Rt. Rev. Andrew Waldo of the Episcopal Church. "And I think that that is a proclamation that we need to make as persons of faith -- that there is a better way, and it has been proclaimed to us in many ways throughout the ages."

      Discussion leaders regulated the round table discussion. Each table took notes of the opinions that were discussed. Organizers say the notes will be compiled and distributed to those who attended, so they can get a better idea of the changes that need to be made in their community to help prevent gun violence.