The Tragedy in Orlando

Jun 14, 2016 Issues: LGBT Rights, Civil Liberties
Dear Friends, 

I am writing to express my most profound sadness and anger at the Orlando terrorist attack that targeted an LGBT nightclub on Sunday. This morning, I spoke out on the House floor to honor the victims, show my solidarity with the LGBT community, call for justice in this heinous crime, and, once again, demand that Congress take action to ban assault weapons. The full text of my speech follows [click picture below to watch the video]:

"Mr. Speaker, this week, tragedy once again struck our nation when the deadliest mass shooting in American history occurred at an LGBT nightclub in Orlando early Sunday morning, leaving 49 people dead and more than fifty wounded.  Our hearts go out to the victims and their families. So many young people in the prime of their lives were senselessly murdered. 

"It is hard to make sense of it all, but there are three aspects of this tragedy that I want to address today. 

"First, the fact that the shooter pledged allegiance to ISIS is deeply disturbing. We need to follow every lead and find out if he did indeed have any connection to ISIS or any other terrorist group. We must pursue those who may have inspired him, trained him, or assisted him in his deadly act. And we must take action to prevent others from being radicalized and turned into deadly killing machines. 

"Second, we must acknowledge that this was a hate crime targeted at the LGBT community. The killer didn't pick his target randomly, he sought out gay young men in a club environment where they felt safe, where they felt a sense of community and acceptance, and he sought to shatter their world and terrorize and intimidate the LGBT community.  I have worked with my friends in the LGBT community for a very long time and one thing I am sure of is that they will not be intimidated. They will not be beaten down, they will not be forced into hiding, they will not be silenced. The community is strong, it is united, and it is unashamed. The LGBT community will come together to honor the dead and then will keep educating, keep advocating, keep mobilizing for a more fair, a more just society, where no one has to live in fear because of who they are or who they love. 

"Third, it is clear that far fewer people would have been killed or wounded if the attacker had not had access to a deadly assault weapon.  

"Once again, the necessity of controlling access to military-style assault weapons, whose only purpose is to kill large numbers of people as quickly and efficiently as possible, is made tragically clear. Our refusal to ban assault weapons makes this House complicit in this and every other mass murder that we now see on a regular basis.  This chamber is drenched in blood. We must cleanse it. We must pass the long-pending legislation to re-institute the assault weapon ban. We ban machine guns, and we had an assault weapon ban not that long ago. So, it is not a radical proposal, it is not counter to the second amendment, it is just common sense. And yet, President George Bush let the ban expire and Republicans in Congress have acted repeatedly to prevent even our consideration of renewing the ban. 

"Every member of Congress who has refused to support renewing the ban should be forced to answer to their constituents, to their country and to the countless victims and their families who have suffered so much heartbreak due to gun violence. How can you allow such carnage to go unchecked? How can you do nothing in the face of so much pain? Why won't you stand up to the NRA, and at least take this basic step to prevent mass murder? Why won’t you ban people on the terrorist watch list from purchasing assault weapons?  If someone is too dangerous to fly, certainly he or she is too dangerous to permit to buy assault weapons.  And yet, this Congress has done nothing except hold repeated moments of silence.  That is not enough. This silence, combined with this inaction, makes hypocrites of us all. 

"The American people are baffled by our silence. They demand more. They demand action. Action to combat hate, to protect the LGBT community, and to control access to deadly weapons to prevent murderers and lunatics from getting assault weapons. 

"If the leadership of this Congress won't take action, then it ought to be replaced by a leadership that will."