Steve Benjamin meets with faith leaders to discuss gun violence - - Columbia, South Carolina |

Steve Benjamin meets with Columbia faith leaders to discuss gun violence

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Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin is turning to the power of prayer when it comes to the conversation on gun violence.

On Friday morning, he held a roundtable discussion at the First Nazareth Baptist Church with members of all faith communities.

Benjamin opened the meeting by saying there were 432 gun crimes in the city of Columbia last year alone and five homicides.

"We are in a war for the souls of our children," said Benjamin. "There's a lot of power in prayer."

"Men and women of faith, working together can solve any problem facing this community."

Benjamin says that's why he wanted to call on faith-based leaders to tackle the issue of gun violence.

"Every hour of every day, we lose someone to gun violence, and that's just a challenge we have to face head on," said Benjamin.

Some who answered the mayor's invite say it's a no-brainer.

"We need to come as church leaders and get our congregations organized and equipped in the ways of handling violence," said Bible Way's Perry Williams.

Others hope the conversation will help lead to stricter statewide legislation.

"This state is one of the highest in illegal gun trafficking, and we are one of the worst in prosecuting in holding the people responsible for facilitating illegal gun sales," said Tree of Life's Joanne Hafter.

But in all cases, it was a chance for the prayer community to join what many view widely as a political conversation. Benjamin says he doesn't believe the two should be separate.

"I'm a child of the Risen Christ," said Benjamin. "I don't believe there needs a dividing line between men and women of faith who want to use that as a cornerstone for helping impact public policy."

Benjamin adds that's what he plans to do with the discussion.

"We can serve as a model and we will be sharing our thoughts and ideas with policy makers in Columbia as well as in Washington DC," said Benjamin.

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