AURORA - The Muslim community in Colorado joined thousands of fellow Americans on Monday, July 23, in mourning the victims of a shooting spree at a crowded midnight movie.
"We are part of this community," Dr. Ashraf Azeem, a local pediatrician, told Reuters.
"Aurora is our home.
Azeem led a group of Muslims to join a vigil to honor 12 people killed by a gunmen at a screening of the latest Batman movie in Colorado on Friday.
"We feel like we lost part of our family, Azeem said.
It's our duty to be here."
He said Muslim mourners had been "extraordinarily well-received."
"For the first time, we feel like we are definitely part of this community," said Ashraf, who has been living Aurora for 25 years.
Thousands of Americans gathered at a sprawling park in Aurora City on Monday to honor those killed and injured when a gunmen opened fire at filmgoers at a packed midnight screening of "The Dark Knight Rises" on Friday.
Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper solemnly read the names of the 12 victims aloud as the crowd repeated "we will remember" after each name.
As he spoke, red heart-shaped balloons drifted up into the sky from among the sea of people.
Many of the attendees wore Batman shirts and Batman hats, some handmade with "7/20/12," the date of the horrific shooting.
That sprit of defiance was also reflected in the refusal, by everyone from President Barack Obama on down, to utter the name of the killer.
"The pain is still raw," Aurora Mayor Steve Hogan said.
"The healing has yet to begin."
The tragedy has prompted new calls for an arms control across the United States.
"This really is an enormous problem for the country, and it's up to these two presidential candidates," New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg said on the CBS show Face the Nation, referring to President Barack Obama and Republican candidate Mitt Romney, reported The New York Times.
"They've said things before that they're in favor of banning things like assault weapons.
"Where are they now and why don't they stand up?" asked Bloomberg. "If they want our votes, they'd better."
Police said that the killer, James Holmes, was able to build a 6,000-round arsenal legally and easily over the Internet.
Police said the 24-year-old ordered 3,000 rounds of handgun ammunition, 3,000 rounds for an assault rifle and 350 shells for a 12-gauge shotgun in four months before the massacre.
He also bought bulletproof vests and other tactical gear, and a high-capacity drum magazine large enough to hold 100 rounds and capable of firing 50 or 60 rounds per minute.
"This guy literally arms himself to the teeth by mail order without anyone pointing a finger and saying, 'What's going on?' "asked Imam Ibrahim Kazerooni, according to Denver Post.
If my name is Ibrahim or Mohammed and I order a gun or that much ammunition on the Internet, I think within a few hours of the delivery, the FBI and CIA is at my house."
Annual firearms sales in the US average 4.5 million a year, and the number of privately owned guns is at an all-time high.
A 1999 bill in Congress aimed at regulating Internet sales of ammunition was never adopted.Democrats in the House and Senate have introduced measures to restrict the sales of large-capacity magazines, but neither measure has gained any traction with the House controlled by Republicans, who tend to be strong supporters of gun rights.