ORLANDO — On the anniversary of the devastating Pulse massacre marking four years since that tragic event, there are new calls for tighter gun control measures to prevent a similar shooting massacre in the future.
Noting Florida’s reputation as a gun-friendly state, the Florida Coalition to Prevent Gun Violence said on the anniversary of Pulse that was the right time to consider making it harder for guns to be used in mass shootings like the ones at this gay nightclub in June 2016 or at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in 2018.
“More needs to be done,” noted Angie Gallo and Andy Pelosi, ch-chairs of the Coalition, in a press statement. They added:
“The Legislature still must address banning military-style assault weapons and large capacity magazines, comprehensive background checks on all gun sales (including conducting them at gun shows) and domestic violence … to name a few.”
Orlando Marks The Fourth Anniversary of the Pulse Massacre
The Pulse attack remains one of the most devastating tragedies in Central Florida’s history. On June 12 2016, a 29-year-old security guard from South Florida, Omar Mateen, went to the gay nightclub in Orlando’s Sodo neighborhood and shot and killed 49 people and wounded 53 others. Mateen was shot and killed by Orlando Police Department officers after a three-hour standoff.
This terrorist attack became the deadliest case of violence against the gay community.
On Friday, June 12, the onePULSE Foundation held its Annual Remembrance Ceremony, although this year for the first time, it was done virtually because of health concerns related to the COVID-19 outbreak. The Pulse Interim Memorial was also closed to the general public so the families of the 49 victims, survivors and first responders could have space to remember their loved ones and to reflect.
Earl Crittendon, chairman of the onePulse Foundation, noted during the virtual ceremony that in the aftermath of this horrific massacre, “Our community and the world came together to prove that love will overcome hate and fear,” and noted that despite COVID-19, their mission remains consistent.
“Our mission is to create and support a memorial that opens hearts,” he said.
Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer took part in the virtual ceremony, calling the Pulse massacre “the most horrific day in our city’s history,” but one that brought city residents together in a remarkable way.
“Today we have to share love and compassion virtually,” Dyer noted. “COVID-19 has impacted nearly every aspect of our lives, but this virus will not stop us from remembering the 49 angels, survivors and victims’ families and honoring the first responders.”
Does Florida Need Stricter Gun Control?
While the city was watching the virtual ceremony, calls for honoring the victims of this tragedy through stronger legislation were also increasing.
Gallo and Pelosi noted that the Pulse Nightclub Massacre is also about the need to raise awareness of gun violence.
“Today, in a month that juxtaposes gun violence awareness, Pride and the fight for racial justice, we pause to remember how a hateful act by a lone gunman using military-style assault weapons murdered 49 innocent people and injured another 53,” they noted. “For the friends and loved ones of the victims and survivors, whose lives have been forever changed by this unspeakable crime that targeted members of the Orlando LGBTQ+ community, we continue to stand with you and support you.”
The Coalition noted that Florida remains “behind many other states in passing smart gun legislation that could save lives,” with bills to ban assault weapons languishing in the Florida Legislature.
They also pointed to the shooting at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Feb. 14 2018, when a teen gunman with a semi-automatic rifle killed 17 people and injured 17 others. In response to that, “Florida armed school teachers, creating more risk in our schools,” the Coalition noted.
The Florida Coalition to Prevent Gun Violence was co-founded by the League of Women Voters of Florida and The Campaign to Keep Guns Off Campus after the Pulse shooting.
“We honor those lives lost at Pulse on June 12, 2016, with our unwavering commitment to fight against hate, and we strive to honor the victims and survivors with action by continuing our fight for strong gun laws that will help to protect Florida’s communities from gun violence,” the Coalition noted.
The Pulse Memorial is a sanctuary for quiet reflection dedicated to honoring the victims of the attack. It’s at 1912 S. Orange Ave. in downtown Orlando and is open daily from 7:30 a.m. to midnight.
Michael Freeman is an Orlando journalist, playwright, and author of the book When I Woke Up, You Were All Dead. Contact him at Freelineorlando@gmail.com.