In the ornate cobblestone garden area of the Ember restaurant in downtown Orlando Wednesday morning, U.S. Senate hopeful Patrick Murphy and 10th Congressional District hopeful Val Demings aimed to recommit and re-energize their voting base on the issues of gun violence — all the while blasting Murphy’s opponent, Marco Rubio, on gun issues.
Joined by the Pride Fund to End Gun Violence, their message couldn’t have been clearer. Patrick and Demings, backed by a number of people wearing Pride Fund shirts and bearing the rainbow-colored LGBT flag, stated it was important to change the status quo and stop making it so easy for violent people to get guns. No more mourning, they said. It was time to act now, and the place to act would be the voting booth Nov. 8.
The Pride Fund to End Gun Violence was formed in the wake of the Pulse attack in June, of which Wednesday was the four-month anniversary. The fund aims to be a strong, concentrated voice for the LGBT community to fight for commonsense gun reform.
Patrick, along with U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy of Connecticut and other speakers, put Rubio on blast for his continual support of the National Rifle Association and gun lobby, which they said indicated he was out of step with what the majority of his constituents — among them many responsible gun owners — wanted.
Patrick Murphy spoke of the sit-in in D.C. after the Pulse attack, which he participated in, saying he received numerous texts and tweets thanking him for standing up to “people like Rubio,” who refuse to do anything, he said. The common theme of his speech was that most people, even Republicans and gun owners, believe there should be stricter laws on background checks and who is allowed to buy guns than there currently are.
“If the survivors of an attack like Pulse can find the strength to move on, then we should find the strength to pass commonsense gun control legislation,” he said.
Patrick Murphy said the actions he would take include legislation barring individuals on the terror watch list from buying weapons and tightening background checks.
But he can’t do it if he doesn’t win in November, he said.
“It’s time to take action and recommit,” he said. “Not just more moments of silence or bills that go nowhere. If this is important to you, please show up.”
Chris Murphy, who served as senator in Connecticut in the aftermath of the Sandy Hook elementary school shooting in 2012, said Orlando and Connecticut are now bound by tragedy. And while no amount of laws passed or legislation can bring back the “little babies” lost in Sandy Hook or the “vibrant young lives” lost in Orlando, they can prevent future tragedies.
That, according to Chris Murphy, means not re-electing people like Marco Rubio, who he said had multiple chances to vote against the gun lobby in the wake of Pulse, but declined to take any of them.
“I’ve given up on him,” the senator said of Rubio. “He is going to stand with the gun lobby every time. But Val Demings and Patrick Murphy will show up and try to make a difference. You should not be allowed to buy a gun if you’re a criminal. That’s only controversial in D.C., not in Connecticut or Florida.”
Pulse survivor Brandon Wolf spoke to the media after the conference’s end and attacked Rubio as well, saying he thought it was sad that Florida was represented by people like Rubio who “don’t care.”
Wolf recounted his experience at Pulse — he went into the bathroom right before the attacks started and survived because of it. He spoke of losing friends in the attack.
“We’re not talking about anything radical here,” he said. “We’re not trying to take anyone’s rights. We don’t think criminals deserve to have weapons. This was a hate crime — someone with a record of violent thoughts, on a terror watch list, someone who had a record of not being a good person, was able to buy a weapon and commit a hate crime. That’s disgusting to me.”
Rubio’s press team issued a statement saying Rubio supports laws that would keep guns out of the hands of terrorists.
“Marco supports laws that keep guns out of the hands of criminals and terrorists while protecting the rights of law-abiding Americans to defend themselves and their families,” the statement reads. “The tragedy in Orlando was a terrorist attack carried out by a homegrown radical extremist. That’s why Marco voted for efforts that would alert the FBI and delay the purchase of weapons for anyone currently on or previously on the terrorist watch list. Ultimately, Marco believes we must refocus our efforts on combating terrorism, both at home and abroad, and addressing the mental health crisis in our country.”
In their email to FloridaPolitics.com, the Rubio campaign also points out numerous bills Rubio has sponsored in September, including one that would prevent suspected terrorists from buying guns, and another that would provide automatic student loan deferments after terrorist attacks.
Rubio’s position, according to his campaign, is that more gun control would not have stopped the attack in cities where many recent attacks have taken place, as many of those cities already had strong gun control laws in place. Nonpartisan sources, such as the The Washington Post and CBS, have stated that Rubio’s position holds water.