The worst mass shooting in U.S. history, perpetrated at a gay nightclub in Orlando, has been polarizing on the issue of the guns used in the massacre.
Gun control groups rushed to condemn the attack in general and the firearm used in the shooting in particular for the death of more than 50.
The Newtown Action Alliance, formed after the 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook School, held a candlelight vigil Sunday night to show solidarity with Orlando. However, the event was not outside of a site connected with the school, but rather in front of National Shooting Sports Foundation headquarters.
Gabby Giffords’ Americans for Responsible Solutions and the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence issued a joint statement slamming Florida gun laws for not restricting access to “assault weapons” and having “incredibly weak standards for allowing people to carry guns in public” although the nightclub Pulse, by state law, was a gun free zone. The Brady Campaign, likewise, blamed the Sunshine State’s liberal gun laws for the attack.
Former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s Everytown, allied with Moms Demand Action, blasted the attack, which they contend is the 150th mass shooting since 2009, while calling for increased gun laws.
“We will never accept these shootings as the new normal, and we must continue to demand our lawmakers act and work to keep guns out of dangerous hands,” said Moms’ founder Shannon Watts in a statement.
Gun rights groups nationwide were largely silent Sunday, although two with a clear and present stake in the Orlando shooting, did address the attack.
“A human being did this. The human being’s tools are unimportant when compared to the bleakness of that person’s soul,” said Gwendolyn Patton, First Speaker of the Pink Pistols, an international LGBT self-defense organization. “I say again, GUNS did not do this. A human being did this, a dead human being. Our job now is not to demonize the man’s tools, but to condemn his acts and work to prevent such acts in the future.”
A second group, LGBT for Gun Rights, blamed Florida’s 51 percent law, which bans legally carried firearms in places that serve alcohol such as the Pulse, citing the ban caused lives.
“When self-defense becomes a crime, tragedy is the only conclusion. In this scenario, the patrons of the club decided to be law-abiding, and unfortunately, that is seldom the safest route,” the group said.
A MoveOn.org petition started Sunday asking Congress and President Obama to declare the National Rifle Association a terrorist organization “for their promotion of guns and that gun violence is the only way to solve the nation’s problems,” has some 3,000 signatures while a WhiteHouse.gov petition to ban the AR-15 from civilian ownership, citing it as “the weapon of choice for Domestic Terrorists and others who wish to kill and harm people quickly and efficiently” has 7,000.
Political leaders on all sides waded into the waters Sunday.
While President Obama spoke Sunday in a mixed message, those who seek to replace him in the White House weighed in on the matter as well with Bernie Sanders denouncing ISIS and calling for the destruction of the terror group before making remarks on NBC’s Meet the Press calling for an assault weapon ban.
Hillary Clinton on Sunday said that “This is the deadliest mass shooting in the history of the United States and it reminds us once more that weapons of war have no place on our streets.”
On the other end of the political spectrum, presumptive Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump called for Obama to step down for not addressing “Radical Islam” and shied away from speaking on guns at all.
The Green Party issued a brief statement condemning the attack and asked only that “the crime must not be exploited either to blame Muslims or immigrants or to suggest that LGBTQIA+ people are less than innocent,” while Libertarian Presidential candidate Gary Johnson said the shooting was not an occasion to politicize or jump to conclusions.
U.S. Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., voiced thoughts and prayers for the killed and injured, then moved onto speaking of gun bans and increased regulatory control.
“We must take every step to keep America safe, which means targeting and taking out terrorists while keeping guns out of the wrong hands,” said Casey in a statement. “It’s time for Congress to finally act on gun violence and ban military-style weapons, put limits on clips and magazine sizes and require background checks on all gun sales.”
U.S.Rep. Bonnie Watson-Coleman, D-NJ, echoed Casey’s call in the House saying, “I truly hope that we can seize this moment of grief and transform it into action ― taking concrete, logical steps to keep guns out of the hands of terrorists and others who shouldn’t have access to weapons, and certainly not guns built to deal as much damage as possible,” in a post on social media.
Meanwhile, Rep. Ted Deutch, D-Fla., announced he is planning to call an immediate floor vote Monday on legislation that would turn the no-fly-list into the no-buy-list for firearms sales, coupled with increased background checks and moves to regulate AR-15s.
“We must do all of it. Now. For Orlando,” said Deutch.