Tag Archives: the pulse

Dems bring gun control to center stage

With moments of silence, shared embraces, many tears and heartfelt speeches, Democrats brought gun control into the spotlight at their convention in Philadelphia.

The Democratic National Convention is taking place at the Wells Fargo Center through July 28. Delegates assembled in the arena the first three nights heard from advocates of gun control.

They also heard from survivors of gun violence and relatives who lost sons, daughters, mothers, fathers and friends to gun violence in America.

U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy of Connecticut, who staged a filibuster earlier this summer to demand action on gun control, remembered the day he went to Sandy Hook Elementary School in his home state.

President Barack Obama also remembered that day.

As did Erica Smegielski. Her mother Dawn, a teacher and principal, was murdered in the massacre at the school.

“I’m here for those lives cut short, in a school, or a movie theater, in a church, at work, in their neighborhoods or homes — because those voices should never be silenced,” she said. “I am here alone — without my mother — while too many politicians cower behind the gun lobby instead of standing with American families.”


Former Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey talked about gun violence and what the proliferation of assault weapons means for citizens and the law enforcement officers who pledge to protect them.

“I’m here to say we need more than grieving,” Ramsey said. “To protect our law enforcement and to serve those heroes who have fallen, we need commonsense measures to reduce gun violence. Police need these commonsense measures. And a leader who will fight for them.”

Actress Angela Bassett spoke about the violence.

Director Lee Daniels spoke about the violence.

Felicia Sanders and Polly Sheppard, two of the three survivors of the mass shooting at Mother Emanuel Church in Charleston, South Carolina, spoke about gun violence and hate.

Sanders said, “My son’s last words were, ‘We mean you no harm.’ Tywanza. My hero. Two days later, I forgave the shooter who murdered him. Hate destroys those who harbor it, and I refused to let hate destroy me.

“Still, I have to ask: How was he able to purchase the gun he used to kill so many? After that fateful day, Hillary Clinton called on lawmakers to close the Charleston loophole. Because of that loophole, even though the shooter had an arrest record, when it didn’t surface and three days had passed, he could still buy that gun.”

Astronaut Mark Kelly spoke about his support for gun control reform, as did his wife, former U.S. Rep. Gabby Giffords, a survivor of a mass shooting.

Jesse Jackson addressed the issue.

And so did Christine Leinonen, the mother of Christopher “Drew” Leinonen, who was killed in the massacre at the Pulse gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, in June.

She stood at the podium with Brandon Wolf and Jose Arraigada, survivors of the shooting that took 49 lives and left 53 wounded.

At times during the emotional address, they helped keep her standing.

From the stage, Leinonen could look out at delegates, some of them draped waving U.S. flags, some draped in rainbow flags and many waving signs reading, “Love trumps hate.”

Leinonen said her son supported Hillary Clinton and that’s why she decided to speak at the convention.

She told delegates that at the time of her son’s birth, she was employed as a state trooper and she remembered that hospital staff stowed her off-duty gun in a safe as a precaution.

“I didn’t argue,” Leinonen said. “I know common sense gun policies save lives.”

“Where was that common sense the day he died?” the mother said, referring to the killing of her son by a gunman armed with an assault rifle.

All this was on July 27, the third night of the convention. Others spoke about gun violence and gun control on July 26 and July 25.

Delegates and Philadelphians, who sometimes waited in long lines for seats in the upper deck of the arena, responded with standing ovations and moments of silence.

“I think there’s a stark difference on this issue between Republicans and Democrats,” said Philadelphia convention-goer Jerome Rivera. “You saw last week Republicans encouraging people to go to their convention concealing and carrying. What did they have to be afraid of at their convention? Other gun-toting Republicans.”


At the podium

Remarks by Gabby Giffords to the Democratic National Convention on July 27:

Hello, fellow Democrats! What a crowd! It’s great to be here today. We have important work ahead of us. Work that will determine the future of our country. Are you ready? I’m ready.

I have a passion for helping people. I always have. So does Hillary Clinton. Hillary is tough. Hillary is courageous.She will fight to make our families safer. In the White House, she will stand up to the gun lobby. That’s why I’m voting for Hillary!

I know what hate and division can do to our communities. Let’s stand up for responsibility. Together we can make sure that respect, hard work, and progress win in November.

In Congress, I learned an important lesson: Strong women get things done!  Let’s work together to make Hillary our president. I’m with Her! And I know you are too.

Speaking is difficult for me. But come January, I want to say these two words: “Madam President.”


At the podium

Remarks by Erica Smegielski to the DNC on July 27:

I shouldn’t be here tonight. I don’t want to be here tonight.

I should be home, like so many Americans watching on TV with my mother, as we nominate the first woman to be President of the United States.

But, my mom was murdered. So I’m here.

I’m here for the mothers and daughters who are planning weddings, so that you get to watch your daughter walk down the aisle.

I’m here for those lives cut short, in a school, or a movie theater, in a church, at work, in their neighborhoods or homes — because those voices should never be silenced.

I am here alone — without my mother — while too many politicians cower behind the gun lobby instead of standing with American families.

We don’t need another Charleston, or San Bernardino, or Dallas, or countless other acts of everyday gun violence that don’t make the headlines.

We don’t need our teachers or principals going to work in fear.

What we need is another mother who is willing to do what is right — whose bravery can live up in equal measure to my mom’s.

We need to elect Hillary Clinton as the 45th President of the United States of America so that no other daughter ever has to say: I would give every day I have left for just one more day with my mom.



Gun shop raffling AR-15 rifle to benefit Orlando victims

A suburban Chicago gun shop is raffling a semi-automatic weapon to benefit victims of the nightclub shooting in Orlando.

Second Amendment Sports in McHenry, Illinois, is selling tickets for $5 to win an AR-15 rifle similar to the one gunman Omar Mateen used when he opened fire in a gay nightclub June 12, leaving 49 people dead and 53 injured. It was the worst mass shooting in modern U.S. history.

“We wanted to do something for the loss of lives and injuries that happened to people in Orlando,” store owner Bert Irslinger Jr. told the Chicago Tribune.

The store isn’t making a political statement, owners said.

“I understand that there are different opinions out there,” said Vic Santi, store marketing director. “We don’t look at this as a gun issue. We look at this as a terrorism issue.”

Store owners plan to announce the winner on July 31, when they open a new gun range and larger showroom.

Kathleen Larimer’s son, 27-year-old John Larimer, a U.S. Navy sailor from Crystal Lake, Illinois, was one of 12 people killed in the 2012 shootings in a Colorado movie theater. Larimer called the raffle an inappropriate publicity ploy.

“Guns are not toys,” Larimer said. “They should be taken seriously. I’m not saying they should be illegal, but raffling off a gun is not taking its killing power seriously.”

Colleen Daley, executive director of the Illinois Council Against Handgun Violence in Chicago, said the raffle is offensive.

“I’m glad people are trying to raise money,” she said. “I just don’t think it’s the most appropriate way to do that. These guns are weapons of war, meant to kill large numbers of people in a short time, which is what happened in Orlando. I find it very distasteful and offensive.”

The gun shop said proceeds plus its own donation of $2,000 will go to the OneOrlando Fund run by the nonprofit group Strengthen Orlando Inc.


Mourning after the massacre, forging ahead on pro-LGBT policy

It has been more than a week since the mass shooting in Orlando, Florida. It is a surreal feeling, to mourn so deeply for individuals who I did not meet.

I am still reeling, like so many of us are, at the loss of life. Fifty, including the shooter.

They say some were straight allies.

They say the murderer may have been gay.

But we know the majority of the victims were members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.

State Rep. JoCasta Zamarripa. — PHOTO: Courtesy
State Rep. JoCasta Zamarripa. — PHOTO: Courtesy

They were from diverse backgrounds: black, brown, white, but we know the majority of them hailed from the Latino community. In fact, it was “Latin night” at Pulse and many went to dance salsa, merengue and bachata. They went to laugh and drink and be themselves. They were there to live their lives authentically.

I remember going to gay bars like Fannies, Dish, MONA’s and La Cage as a young twentysomething in Milwaukee. I wasn’t out anywhere but these safe havens. I had my first girlfriend at 22 years old. At Fannies, we could kiss, embrace and slow dance. I didn’t feel comfortable doing that in any other public space, at that time.

My heart sinks when I think about the young victims who may not have yet come out to their families. I know the pain of not allowing my partner to hold my hand at the movie theater. I know the sting of having to avoid the question when asked if I was gay. And I’m angered to think of the hateful, vengeful, disturbed individual who stole that freedom from them because there is nothing like the liberty I have felt as an out, openly bisexual member of the LGBT community.

Although many elected leaders, spoke to the need for gun reform laws to be passed in the hours after the Orlando tragedy, I have to be honest and admit that the first thing to cross my mind was not gun reform. I support the need for gun reform, but my first thoughts went to LGBT policy, pro-equality and the anti-LGBT equality legislation that has emerged with a vengeance this legislative session.

I thought immediately of the anti-LGBT “bathroom bills” that we have seen introduced in state legislatures across the country. In Wisconsin, state Rep. Jesse Kremer, R-Kewaskum, and his Republican caucus have been passionately advocating for this bigotry to become law.

Of course, I also thought of the pragmatic LGBT equality legislation that I introduced this session, along with my fellow out Democrats, state Rep. Mark Spreitzer, D- Beloit, and state Sen. Tim Carpenter, D- Milwaukee, as well as many of our straight Democratic allies.

AB 816 would “clean up” the statutes to reflect the legality of same-sex marriage. Passage of this bill is needed, especially by same-sex couples who are trying to adopt their child, but 2nd parent adoption continues to be an issue for these families since our statutes have not been corrected to reflect marriage equality.

SJR 46 would finally remove the hateful language banning marriage equality from our state’s constitution. Our constitution was amended in 2006 and language was added banning same-sex marriages and domestic partnerships. Despite a huge victory in 2014 on marriage equality via the Supreme Court, this discriminatory language still sits in our state constitution, a stain on our history that many feel should be wiped clean.

AJR 117, a symbolic resolution, would recognize June as LGBT Pride month. I have worked, since coming out publicly in 2012, to get this symbolic resolution passed in the state legislature, but to no avail.

This session, after Wisconsin elected the first openly-gay Republican, state Rep. Todd Novak, Dodgeville), I was certain we would finally get this small, but important piece of legislation passed.

In the end, Novak couldn’t be counted on to support even this symbolic legislation and watched as his Republican colleagues killed not just this bill, but every other LGBT equality bill.

Still, Novak teaches us a good lesson: That it is not enough to be out in elected office.

Openly-LGBT elected officials must represent our community pro-actively by introducing LGBT equality bills and fighting hard against anti-transgender, anti-LGBT bills that we are seeing spring up across the country.

For my part, I plan to continue my work with my Democratic colleagues to push forward pro-LGBT equality policy. Passage of a state-level Employment Non-Discrimination Act, as well as policies addressing youth homelessness, suicide prevention, and health & wellness are at the top of my list as I move forward — an out, proud, openly-LGBT elected Democrat.

I know that none of this will bring back the 49 brothers and sisters we lost on Sunday morning, but my hope is that this work will help to combat the scourge of homophobia and help my fellow LGBT Wisconsinites to live their lives authentically, happily and safely. As my friend and fellow LGBT leader, Brian J., says so eloquently, “to not only survive, but thrive!”

Democratic State Rep. JoCasta Zamarripa represents the 8th Assembly District in Wisconsin.

Donald Trump is backtracking on guns-in-clubs statement

Donald Trump is backtracking from his contention that victims of the Orlando massacre should have been allowed to carry arms into the nightclub where they were attacked — a stance even the NRA says is untenable.

The presumptive Republican presidential nominee tweeted on June 20 that he was “obviously talking about additional guards or employees” of the Orlando, Florida, nightclub where the attack happened when he spoke about the value of having more people armed to challenge the gunman.

That’s not what Trump said previously.

A day after the attack, he told radio host Howie Carr: “It’s too bad that some of the young people that were killed over the weekend didn’t have guns, you know, attached to their hips, frankly, and you know where bullets could have flown in the opposite direction, Howie. It would have been a much different deal. I mean, it sounded like there were no guns. They had a security guard. Other than that there were no guns in the room. Had people been able to fire back, it would have been a much different outcome.”

Trump had repeated his suggestion at rallies across the country last week. In Atlanta he said the carnage would have been lessened if “some of those great people that were in that club that night had guns strapped to their waist or strapped to their ankle.”

His statements were a step too far for the National Rifle Association, a powerful lobby for armed self-defense and broad permissions to carry weapons. “No one thinks that people should go into a nightclub drinking and carrying firearms,” the NRA’s chief lobbyist, Chris Cox, told ABC’s “This Week” on Sunday. ‘’That defies common sense. It also defies the law.”

The NRA dustup came as the Senate prepared to vote Monday on expanded gun background checks and proposals to keep people on a government terrorism watch list or other suspected terrorists from buying guns. But prospects for any significant change in gun laws were dim.

The Orlando shooter, Omar Mateen, was added to a government watch list of people known or suspected of being involved in terrorist activities in 2013, when he was investigated for inflammatory statements to co-workers. But he was pulled from that database when that investigation was closed 10 months later.

Trump made the case on the weekend that the U.S. should consider profiling Muslims inside the country as a terrorism-fighting tool, the latest example of his backing positions that could single out a group based on its religion.

“We really have to look at profiling,” Trump told CBS’s “Face the Nation.” ‘’It’s not the worst thing to do.”

Trump’s proposal runs counter to Justice Department policy, which prohibits profiling on the basis of race, religion, ethnicity and national origin. That profiling ban applies not only to federal agents but also to local law enforcement officers who participate in federal task forces.

Trump’s increasing embrace of policies that could isolate Muslims in America is extraordinary for a candidate assured of his party’s presidential nomination. The proposals have been roundly criticized by many Republican leaders, including House Speaker Paul Ryan. Civil libertarians, Muslims and others also have strongly disagreed, arguing that profiling is unconstitutional and often constitutes unlawful discrimination based on race, religion and other factors.

Trump’s statements are consistent with his long-expressed views on how to stop terrorism in the United States, most notably a freeze on the entry of foreign Muslims in the U.S. But he’s intensified his approach since Mateen carried out the worst mass shooting in modern American history on June 12. Forty-nine people were killed in the attack.

For the record: Wisconsin leaders respond to attack in Orlando

House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., has ordered that flags above the Capitol be flown at half-staff in honor of the victims of the Orlando attack.

Ryan said in a statement, “It is horrifying to see so many innocent lives cut short by such cowardice. Tonight, and in the long days ahead, we will grieve with the families. We will thank the heroes. We will hope for a swift recovery for the injured.

“As we heal, we need to be clear-eyed about who did this. We are a nation at war with Islamist terrorists. Theirs is a repressive, hateful ideology that respects no borders. It is a threat to our people at home and abroad. Our security depends on our refusal to back down in the face of terror. We never will.”

Other statements from political leaders in Wisconsin:

U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis.: “As a nation, we have all witnessed a historic tragedy in Orlando. As we offer our thoughts and prayers, we also must come to terms with the fact that they are not enough. This was not only a horrific attack on the LGBT community, it was an attack on the freedoms we all hold dear. The question now for America is are we going to come together and stand united against hate, gun violence and terrorism? I understand it may not be easy, but I know we are better than this and it is past time to act together.”

U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson: “My thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families and the brave men and women who risked their lives to save others. My committee will work to support the federal role in investigating this terror attack and protecting against further threats. As Americans we must unite to defeat terrorism’s threat to our nation’s security.”

U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan, D-Wis., co-chair of the LGBT Equality Caucus: “As we grapple with the horrific events that took place yesterday morning in Orlando, my thoughts are with the families of the victims and everyone affected during Pride Month. The targeting of the LGBT individuals in this heinous act of violence has reignited many fears and uncertainty in our community. As a country, we must stand together to denounce bigotry and hatred and embrace love and acceptance.

“President Barack Obama declared this ‘an act of terror and an act of hate,’ an action perpetrated with a military-style assault weapon. Across the country people are asking themselves what they can do to help and what can be done to prevent such a devastating event from happening again.

“As a Member of Congress I contemplated these thoughts as well, ultimately coming to the conclusion that Congress won’t do a thing about any of these issues again this week. In fact, all too often actions and language here in Congress and on the campaign trail actually exacerbate would-be terrorists. And actions even on the Floor of the House of Representatives all too often reinforce the hate of some people. Unfortunately, this body is too chicken to address the epidemic of military-style assault weapons because that would upset the gun manufacturers and special interests.

“In the end all we will do is have yet another moment of silence, rather than a moment of action. That disrespects the lives of the people who were killed not just yesterday, but every day by gun violence. There may be blood in the streets, but if Congress continues to fail to act, we will have blood on our hands.”

U.S. Rep. Gwen Moore, D-Wis.: “My heart aches over the tragic events that took place last night in Orlando, Florida. As details about this horrific incident emerge — including the background of the perpetrator — make no mistake, this was indeed an act of terror. This savage act was carried out in an effort to intimidate and terrify our LGBT brothers and sisters.

“This senseless loss of life transpired in a club that was meant to be a safe space for an already vulnerable group of Americans, but we must never forget that an attack on the LGBT community is an attack on all of us. As we mourn for those whose lives have been touched by this act of barbarism, we must do everything in our collective power to put an end to the attitudes and behaviors that help cultivate a society where such hate can come to fruition. Today, Milwaukee stands with the City of Orlando and our nation’s LGBT community.”

Gov. Scott Walker: “Tonette and I extend our prayers to those killed or injured in Orlando and to their loved ones following this tragic act of violence.”

State Rep. Mark Spreitzer, D-Beloit: “I’m horrified by the attack in Orlando early Sunday morning. This was a terrible tragedy, an act of terror, and a hate crime perpetrated against the LGBTQ community. That this attack came during Pride Month, which is meant to celebrate what it means to be LGBTQ, is especially heartbreaking. My heartfelt condolences go out to the victims, to their friends and family, and the entire LGBTQ community that is deeply hurting after this attack.

“Although we cannot accept that this kind of massacre is something that happens in this country, we must not scapegoat entire groups of people. Instead, we must lay the blame where it belongs: the ideology of violent extremism.

“Let us take action to promote legal and social equality, and to keep dangerous weapons out of the hands of those who seek to use them to do harm. Let us choose love over hate, and hug our friends, family, and neighbors even more closely in the days and weeks ahead. Let us continue to build a community where this kind of act really is unthinkable.”

State Rep. Lisa Subeck, D-Madison: “What happened yesterday in Orlando is a heartbreaking act of hate and terror. Today, my thoughts are with the victims, their families, the LGBT community, and the people of Orlando.

“Sadly, we cannot simply legislate away hate and bigotry, but we can put an immediate end to the discriminatory laws and political rhetoric that only serve to fuel the kind of hatred and fear that too often provoke violence. And we can pass common sense gun laws that prevent tragedies such as this one.

“It makes no sense that we continue allowing easy access to weapons that make the killing of dozens of people in a matter of minutes possible. We must take immediate action to get assault weapons out of our communities, make guns less readily available, and keep guns out of the hands of those who intend to do harm.

“We have all watched in horror as community after community has had to confront the tragedy of mass shootings. These tragedies are preventable, and it is high time the NRA and those politicians beholden to them stop standing in the way of public safety.”

State Rep. Melissa Sargent, D-Madison: “I can’t imagine the terror and horror inside that Orlando night club early Sunday morning. I can’t imagine the fear the club-goers felt after the first shots rang out. And I can’t imagine the chill that family members and friends experienced when they saw the news alert about the shooting pop up on their phones and televisions. Their texts and calls to loved ones going unanswered.

“My heart is heavy for the victims, their families, and the LGBTQ community and their fight for equality. We mourn together with them. It is now our responsibility to learn who the victims were and carry out their legacies. These were sons and daughters – who loved and were loved. These were friends, neighbors, and co-workers – passionate about life, whose most basic freedom was taken from them. It is now incumbent upon all of us to make the world a better place to honor and remember them for who they were and what they cared about.

“The time for hashtag politics and empty wishes of ‘thoughts and prayers’ with no action is over. I will not be honoring these victims with moments of silence. I will be honoring them with my voice and my actions. We must immediately address this public health crisis of gun violence in America.”

State Rep. JoCasta Zamarripa, D-Milwaukee: “Yesterday, I woke up to the tragic news that a mass shooting had taken place at an LGBT night club in Orlando, Florida. We know now that 50 people, likely all LGBT Americans, were slain and 53 wounded.

“LGBT Wisconsinites and our allies were devastated, of course, but in Milwaukee we still held our annual Pride Parade in the Walker’s Point neighborhood I am honored to represent in the Wisconsin State Assembly.

“I can tell you that our hearts were heavy, but we were resolute in our desire to come together as a community, to march shoulder-to-shoulder, to cheer each other on, and to celebrate our pride as LGBT immigrants, LGBT Wisconsinites and LGBT Americans. We marched to show that even in our grief, we are proud to be out, active, contributing members to society and to our communities.

“As an openly bisexual member of my beloved LGBT community, I send the deepest of sympathies to the victims, their families and to all LGBT Floridians.

“As an out elected leader in Wisconsin, I commit to continuing to fight for LGBT equality and I join the chorus of so many other leaders, including President Obama, in insisting on common sense gun reform now before one more life is lost.”

State Sen. Tim Carpenter, D-Milwaukee: “Sunday saw the deadliest shooting in modern American history after a gunman opened fire and took hostages at a gay nightclub in Orlando. As of today, fifty innocent people were killed and scores still remain hospitalized.

“My heart breaks with the loss and suffering of the victims and their families.

“I am thankful for law enforcement and medical personnel in the area who stopped the killer, rescued the victims, treated the wounded, and comforted those who grieved.

“I am also grateful for everyone who answered the call and stood in long lines to donate blood for the injured.

“This atrocity took place during Pride Month, and on a weekend where – all across the country – members of the LGBT community, our supporters, and allies came together to celebrate the progress made in civil rights and equality in our nation.

“Milwaukee held its 30th annual PrideFest parade on Sunday. As I walked the parade route I spoke with many friends and strangers who shared my recollections of times past when the LGBT community was under attack, from denial of basic civil rights to the devastating losses of the AIDS crisis. Although our hearts break, we are resilient, we will persevere, and we will continue to work for a better world.”


State Rep. Chris Taylor, D-Madison: “Like millions of Americans, I am absolutely sick over Sunday morning’s massacre at an LGBT nightclub in Orlando. For the hundreds of families suffering the unbearable loss of a loved one to those still grappling with the unknown – I am so sorry for your pain and send my deepest condolences. Despite our recent historic gains for fairness and equality, there is still ignorance and intense hatred that exists towards the LGBTQ community. As public officials our words matter. At a time when we should be united, it’s disappointing to see that there are some that refuse to acknowledge this incident for what it was – an intentional, hateful, deadly attack on the gay, lesbian and transgender community.

“In a country where it can be is easier to obtain certain high-level military assault weapons than vote, we must re-examine our priorities in the face of this inexplicable tragedy. We’ve seen 20 first graders violently gunned down, we’ve seen a television reporter shot on live television and now we’ve seen 49 Americans murdered this weekend within a matter of minutes – how can we stand here and do nothing? We can work to make our communities safer through commonsense gun safety measures or we can continue down the same path of inaction and hate-filled rhetoric that is poisoning our society.”

Madison Mayor Paul Soglin: “We ask if the weapons were obtained legally or illegally. We ask if it was an act of terrorism or of hatred, or of both. These distinctions do not matter.

“Once again, innocent and good people who loved and were loved by family and friends, are dead – the victims of the obscene firepower available in this country sponsored by the National Rifle Association.

“We need to stand up to the NRA and the peddlers of death.

“There is a range of reasonable steps that can be taken without infringing on the provision of the Second Amendment, which ensures the establishment of a well-regulated militia: weapons registration, owner registration, background checks, waiting periods, and control on weapons sales. Limitations on firepower are reasonable, sensible actions.

“Here in Madison we feel compassion and pain for those who perished; who deserved to live their lives in happiness and love. Our hearts go out to their families and loved ones and to the people of Orlando. I have conveyed our sympathies to Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer.”

Democratic Party of Wisconsin Chair Martha Laning: “I speak for the Democratic Party of Wisconsin and myself when I say our hearts go out to the people of Orlando, the victims and their families, the responders, and the LGBT community.

“Yesterday, we saw the absolute worst of humanity, when the hatred of one individual turned into the largest mass shooting in American history. This was an act of terror; this was an act of hate, and this was an attack on all of us.

“We must stand together in the face of such hatred, and not let acts like these drive us apart. I and millions across this country stand with our friends and family in the LGBT community. Violence like this will not deter our resolve to ensure that regardless of who an individual loves or how they identify, they are treated with respect and receive equal protection under the law.”


Senate Dems push for quick passage of gun control legislation

Leading U.S. Senate Democrats on June 13 urged quick passage of legislation defeated last year to impose additional gun controls in the wake of the weekend mass shooting in Florida.

Four Democratic senators, led by Chuck Schumer of New York, the No. 2 Senate Democrat, called for immediate passage of a bill preventing people on “terror watch lists” and other “suspected terrorists” from buying firearms or explosives.

Last December, Democrats attempted to pass this legislation but were blocked by Republicans, who said the government could mistakenly place innocent people on watch lists.

The new push for legislation came after a man with an assault rifle entered a gay nightclub in Orlando and killed 49 people and wounded 53 others. The gunman was killed by law enforcement officers.

Federal agents had interviewed the gunman twice in recent years.

Joining Schumer in calling for passage of the legislation are Sens. Dianne Feinstein of California, Bill Nelson of Florida and Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut.

Meanwhile, Democratic President Barack Obama on June 13 blamed weak gun laws for allowing disturbed individuals to gain access to powerful weapons.

Hillary Clinton, the leading Democratic candidate to replace Obama in the White House, said people on watch lists should be barred from buying guns and said there should be a debate about possible restrictions on assault weapons.

Donald Trump, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, took a different approach, repeating his call for temporarily banning Muslims from entering the country.

The Orlando gunman was born in the United States. His parents were Afghan immigrants.

Governor seeks emergency declaration after massacre

Florida Gov. Rick Scott on June 13 requested a federal emergency declaration under the Stafford Act in the wake of the massacre at a gay nightclub in Orlando.

“Yesterday’s terror attack was an attack on our state and entire nation,” Scott said in a news statement. “This morning, I have asked President Obama to declare an emergency so that the full resources of the federal government can be made available for all those impacted by this horrific massacre.”

The governor, added, “I have remained in constant communication with federal, state and local law enforcement. I have spoken with our hospitals who are caring for those who are wounded and recovering. I have also been in contact with some of the victims’ families to let them know we are grieving with them and will be there for them every step of the way. Our state is mourning, but the Orlando community is strong. We are all coming together, and we will get through this together. I ask every American to continue to pray for our state and nation and all those affected by this terror attack.”

Lt. Governor Carlos Lopez-Cantera also issued a statement. He said, “We are devastated, angry and disgusted by the horrifying act of domestic terrorism that took place here in our state. I have been on the ground in Orlando, and the sense of community and love we see here is proof that we are a resilient people. We as Americans have shown and will continue to show that we cannot and will not be intimidated into changing our way of life by evil. The state of Florida has offered all resources available, and will continue to be in constant contact with all agencies involved. Our prayers are with those and their families devastated by last night’s act of terror, and we will be doing everything possible to support.”

Scott has tried to avoid acknowledging the Pulse is a gay dance club and that the many victims are from the LGBT community.

He’s been an ardent opponent of same-sex marriage and defended the state ban on such marriages in federal and state courts. Most recently the Republican governor signed legislation protecting clergy who want to refuse services to LGBT people.

Before Orlando: A look at violence targeting LGBT venues

At least 50 people were killed and at least 53 were wounded at the Pulse gay nightclub June 12 in Orlando, Florida. The shooter died during a shootout with SWAT team members. A look at prior incidents of violence at LGBT venues since 1973.

• Dec. 31, 2013: About 750 people were celebrating New Year’s Eve at a popular gay nightclub in Seattle when Musab Mohammed Masmari poured gasoline on a carpeted stairway and set it ablaze. No one was injured. Masmari was arrested a month later as he prepared to leave the country. He apologized in a statement to the court and said he didn’t remember his actions because he blacked out after drinking a bottle of cheap whiskey. He was sentenced to 10 years in prison for arson.

• March 1, 2009: Three men threw rocks into a gay bar in Galveston, Texas, injuring two male patrons. Brothers Lawrence Lewis III, 20 and Lawrneil Lewis, 18, along with their cousin Sam Gray, 17, were charged with a hate crime for throwing the rocks, which were apparently being used as doorstops, into Robert’s Lafitte bar.

• Sept 22, 2000: Ronald Gay walked into the Backstreet Cafe, a gay bar in Roanoke, Virginia, and opened fire, killing one man and wounding six other patrons, two of them seriously. Gay, a 55-year-old drifter who told police he was upset over the slang connotation of his last name, pleaded guilty to the murder of 43-year-old Danny Overstreet and was sentenced to four life terms.

• Feb. 21, 1997: A nail-laden device exploded in a back room of the Otherside Lounge, a nightclub in Atlanta with a mostly gay and lesbian clientele. The lounge was crowded with about 150 people when the device went off on a rear patio. Five people were wounded. Eric Rudolph was later convicted for the bombing as well as bombings at Centennial Olympic Park and abortion clinics in suburban Atlanta and Birmingham, Alabama. The 1996 Olympics bombing killed one person and wounded 111, and the Birmingham bombing killed a police officer and maimed a nurse. Rudolph is serving four life sentences in federal prison.

– June 24, 1973: The Upstairs Lounge fire in New Orleans’ French Quarter killed 32 people. Most of those killed were trapped by burglar bars on three front windows. A survivor said he believed someone dashed an inflammable liquid on the wooden stairway to the crowded second-floor lounge and lit it. The arsonist was never caught.

Not included here are the many acts of violence targeting LGBT individuals.

Milwaukee PrideFest responds to shootings, announces plans for tribute

Milwaukee Pride on June 12 issued a statement expressing “absolute sympathy” after the mass shooting in Orlando, Florida, and said there would be a tribute today at 4 p.m.

The organizers of the Milwaukee LGBT festival, which concludes today, said, “Our love and support goes to the victims, survivors, their friends and families, and hope that all can find peace in the wake of this horrifying event.”

Wes Shaver, president elect of Milwaukee Pride, said, “We are furious about this senseless violence. This act of terror sought to silence our community during a month of national LGBTQ celebration. We will not and cannot allow ourselves to be silenced.”

Shaver said PrideFest would continue today. Since 7:30 a.m., the all-volunteer team has been meeting with local, state and federal agencies to provide the highest level of security possible, according to a news release.

Organizers said three levels of security, including Milwaukee Police Department, Summerfest and PrideFest staff, patrol the grounds from open to close each year.

As a precaution, the festival today will introduce full metal detection at the admission gates and increase security staffing across all areas.

“Unlike some pride festivals, our grounds are open only to ticketed guests who pass through our front gates,” said Eric Heinritz, executive director of Milwaukee Pride, Inc. “All personal items are subject to search before entry, and we do not allow carry-ins. While some may find these rules inconvenient, our first and foremost priority must be the safety of our guests.”

In addition, the festival plans a tribute event at 4 p.m. at the Miller Lite Mainstage. Following a short presentation, PrideFest will honor a moment of silence for the Orlando victims throughout the entire festival grounds.

Today’s performers were encouraged to honor the tragedy during all scheduled performances.

“Today is a day for LGBTQ community solidarity,” said Michail Takach, communications director of Milwaukee Pride. “While thoughts and prayers are welcome, action is required. Today is a day to come out, to be seen, and to be heard, in honor of those whose day was stolen from them. Today is a day to remember where we started and why we started.

“Come together at the Milwaukee Pride Parade in Walker’s Point.  Come together at PrideFest at Milwaukee’s lakefront. Come together with our Proud Partners throughout Wisconsin.

“Wherever you are, today is a day to celebrate your right to live proud.”

Orlando mosque to hold prayer service

The Baitul-Aafiyat Mosque will hold a prayer service tonight, June 12, in Orlando.

Ahmadiyya Muslim Community USA issued a statement urging calm after 50 were killed and scores injured at the Pulse, a gay dance club in the central Florida city.

The shooting early June 12 — the largest mass shooting in U.S. history — occurred on Latin-themed night at the club just days after 150,000 people celebrated Gay Days in Orlando.

In a statement issued mid-day June 12,  Dr. Wajeeh Bajwa, president of Ahmadiyya Muslim Community Orlando, said, “We condemn this senseless and horrific act of violence in the strongest possible terms.

“Our community has been in Orlando for nearly two decades and yet have never seen such depravity. Our hearts go out to the innocent victims and their families.  We stand in solidarity with them as their neighbors and brothers and sisters in peace.”

He continued, “In light of this horrific tragedy, the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community Orlando Chapter will hold a prayer service for the victims, their families and the entire grieving community. We pray for the swift recovery of the injured and for our heroic law enforcement officers. We continue to offer our deepest condolences to the families and friends of the victims. Islam teaches reverence for all human life. This is a time to pray and act to stop such senseless violence in our nation.”

Additionally, Bajwa said the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community Orlando Chapter is encouraging its members to donate blood even though they may be fasting today, which the  seventh fast in the month of Ramadan.

Florida’s blood services have issued a call for donors.

The prayer service will be at 8 p.m. eastern time at Baitul-Aafiyat Mosque, 9501 Satellite Blvd., Suite 103, Orlando.