Local church joins more than 150 congregations in Gun Violence Prevention Sabbath event

Victims shared stories at Valencia Park church

SAN DIEGO - The tragedy of gun violence took center stage at churches around the country on Sunday, including one in San Diego.

The people who attend St. Stephen's Cathedral Church of God in Christ in Valencia Park know plenty about gun violence. The chief pastor said more than 12 people in the congregation had had family members who have lost their lives to someone armed with a gun.
 
"It's out of hand," said Ricky McCoy. "They're killing kids now. It ain't just adults, its kids now." 
 
McCoy knows how the parents of the children killed in last month's massacre in Connecticut feel. His own son, Rickquese, was gunned down just last June.  
 
He had this advice for anyone with access to a gun. 
 
"Picking up a gun is never the right choice," he said. "It [has gotten] way out of hand when you need to pick up a gun to deal with your problems."
 
Frank and Teresa Ramirez's son Adam was killed by gang members armed with guns in 2005. Both of them urge prayer when considering solutions. 
 
"I draw the line to understand why a person would need the type of gun that's going to fire off several bullets at a time," Teresa Ramirez said.
 
Tracey Swafford's 17-year-old daughter Monique Palmer was killed in December of 2008 as she walked down a street with 15-year-old Michael Taylor, who was also killed.  
 
"I think the only people that should be able to have a gun is somebody that has been trained and skilled in it… a registered gun user," Swafford said.  
 
She added that parents must take responsibility for their children.  
 
"It takes us as parents to raise them to be the successful human beings they need to be," she said.
 
Though the stories told at St. Stephen's were heart-wrenching, there was also a feeling of hope that progress can be made in solving one of society's most difficult and deadly problems.
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