Vice President Mike Pence recently visited Sutherland Springs, Texas, where a gunman opened fire Sunday at First Baptist Church, killing 26, and reminded church members that evil will never diminish the faith of the American people.
“We come together as one nation and one people: to support our fellow Americans in their hour of need,” ABC News quotes Pence as saying in remarks to a prayer vigil at Floresville High School Wednesday night. “Faith is stronger than evil. No attack, no act of violence will ever make our spirit or diminish the faith of the American people…Whatever animated the evil that descended on that small church, if the attacker’s desire was to silence their testimony of faith, they failed.”
“Faith tells us we overcome evil with good,” he continued. “So this weekend, I hope a lot of Americans do what we’re doing here tonight. I hope the places of worship all across America will be filled to overflowing. I hope that Americans of every background and belief will send a chorus of prayers from their hearts into the heart of heaven for these families, for this community.”
Just before the prayer vigil, Pence, along with his wife, Karen, met with family members of the victims, telling them, “The whole country is praying over you,” Fox News reports.
During his visit, he also visited the site of the shooting rampage, where he delivered a message on President Trump’s behalf as he addressed cameras.
“President Trump asked us to be here to say to the members of First Baptist Church and to Sutherland Springs, we are with you, the American people are with you and as the president said on Sunday, halfway across the world, we will never leave your side,” Pence said, standing in front of First Baptist Church.
The VP declared that “this evil must come to an end in this land,” and promised to investigate how shooter Devin Kelley was able to obtain a firearm.
“We now know it was a crime that the assailant was ever able to purchase a firearm in the first place, he lied on his application, had a history of mental illness, and there were bureaucratic failures,” Pence said. “I’m informed by Secretary Heather Wilson that the Air Force is moving aggressively and that review will be completed in days, not weeks. I can also report that the Department of Defense is conducting a review of its own to ensure that the national crime information center has the most up to date information on each branch of the armed forces.”
The vice president was joined by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott — who proclaimed Tuesday a statewide day of prayer — Attorney General Jeff Sessions, and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz.
“We’re showing just as we did in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, when Texas faces a tragedy, Texans come together and respond profoundly and I’m very, very proud of our fellow Texans,” Abbott said.
“We had the privilege of meeting with some of the victims at the hospital moments ago, one of whom was shot in the back and was injured in his vertebrae, spinal cord exactly where I was injured. His mom and I shared hugs and talked about the future, I said you know one day he may grow up to be governor,” Abbott said.
The Texas Department of Public Safety has released an official list of those killed in the rampage, which revealed that the eight male victims and 17 female victims ranged in age from 1 to 77.
Authorities said the 26 dead also included the unborn baby of a woman who was killed, and all of the victims died at the scene, except for one child who died at a San Antonio-area hospital.