US Vice President Mike Pence lays the blame squarely on the shooter and does not make mention of gun control during his speech to survivors and victims' families.

US Vice President Mike Pence (R) hugs Stephen Willeford, the man who shot the shooter at the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs in Floresville, Texas. November 8, 2017.
US Vice President Mike Pence (R) hugs Stephen Willeford, the man who shot the shooter at the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs in Floresville, Texas. November 8, 2017. (Reuters)

US Vice President Mike Pence met survivors and victims' families in Texas on Wednesday, as officials identified those killed in a mass shooting at a rural church, including eight children.

They were among the 26 killed when Devin Patrick Kelley sprayed the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs with bullets during Sunday service last weekend.

TRT World's Anelise Borges reports from Sutherland Springs.

A sombre Pence – accompanied by Texas Governor Greg Abbott – spoke in front of the church and said he and wife Karen had arrived in the town with "a heavy heart."

"Faith is stronger than evil," Pence said. "I'm here as vice president to ensure that the full resources of the United States are brought to bear."

"The American people are with you," he added. "We will never leave your side."

Pence was to attend an evening prayer service with the grieving community, to be held at an open-air high school football stadium. 

A long line of people waited to clear security to enter the stadium hours in advance, while some huddled and prayed in the parking lot. 

Pence insisted the Air Force will quickly announce the outcome of an internal investigation into why Kelley's conviction was not entered into a database used to run background checks.

"He had a history of mental illness, and there were bureaucratic failures,” he said. "We will find out why this information was not properly reported in 2012, and we are working with leaders in Congress to ensure this never happens again."

Kelley died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head following a brief car chase with two men who were hailed as heroes for confronting him. One of the men shot and wounded Kelley outside the church.

The mass shooting prompted renewed calls for stricter gun control measures. Texas has some of the most permissive gun laws in the country.

"We must begin the process of dealing with gun violence, and we must do it today," Texas state legislator Nicole Collier said at a news conference, calling for hearings to address the issue.

Painful healing process

Meanwhile, Sutherland Springs, the small Texan town is struggling to come to terms with what happened and with what will be in the future.

Ten people are still fighting for their lives after being severely wounded by the gunman.

"I just walked up and down that road ... and what I saw was bullet holes in the church. I could tell that something terrible had gone on," said Charlie Sladovnik an eyewitness of the shooting.

"I don't think anybody knew exactly what had gone wrong but that probably a lot of people had gotten hurt," Sladovnik added.

Residents say the level of violence was inconceivable for a place like Sutherland Springs.

 Many of them believe people in the town won't be able to start going through the painful healing process until the journalists and the tv cameras are gone.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies