The attack at St Stephen's Episcopal Church is the latest of several high-profile shootings that triggered a debate and renewed calls for stricter gun control measures in the country.

Since the start of the year more than 20,000 people have died of firearm violence in the United States, according to an NGO .
Since the start of the year more than 20,000 people have died of firearm violence in the United States, according to an NGO . (AP)

A shooting at a church in the US state of Alabama has left two people dead and one wounded.

The incident took place at St Stephen's Episcopal Church in the town of Vestavia Hills on Thursday, the town's police department said on Facebook.

Police captain Shane Ware told reporters a lone assailant entered the church and started shooting. Three people were hit: Two have died and the other is being treated, he said.

He added that a suspect was in custody and that there was “no threat to the community at this time."

The shooting happened as the church was holding a potluck dinner, the church said on its website. "There will be no program, simply eat and have time for fellowship," it said.

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Gun violence epidemic

The FBI, US Marshals Service and the Bureau of Alcohol, Firearms, Tobacco and Explosives dispatched agents to the scene. 

Investigators remained hours past nightfall, with yellow police tape cordoning off the church complex and emergency police and fire vehicles with flashing lights blocking the route to the church. 

Nearby, people huddled and prayed.

The United States is in the midst of a particularly gruesome chapter of its epidemic of gun violence. 

The most fatal case in this stretch was a shooting at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas that left 19 children and two teachers dead on May 24.

Since the start of the year more than 20,000 people have died of firearm violence in the United States, according to an NGO called the Gun Violence Archive. This includes deaths by suicide.

On Saturday thousands of people rallied in the US and at the National Mall in Washington, DC, to renew calls for stricter gun control measures. 

Survivors of mass shootings and other incidents of gun violence also lobbied legislators and testified on Capitol Hill earlier this month.

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Source: TRTWorld and agencies