Florida leaders react to shooting at Pulse Night Club

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A gunman wielding an assault-type rifle and a handgun took hostages and opened fire inside a crowded Florida nightclub, killing approximately 20 people and wounding 42 others before dying in a gunfight with SWAT officers, police said Sunday.

Here is a compilation of reactions from elected officials, leaders, and organizations to this tragedy:

The White House:

“The President was briefed this morning by Lisa Monaco, assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism, on the tragic shooting in Orlando, Florida. Our thoughts and prayers are with the family and loved ones of the victims. The President asked to receive regular updates as the FBI, and other federal officials, work with the Orlando Police to gather more information, and directed that the federal government provide any assistance necessary to pursue the investigation and support the community.”

Hillary Clinton:

“I join Americans in praying for the victims of the attack in Orlando, their families and the first responders who did everything they could to save lives.

“This was an act of terror.  Law enforcement and intelligence agencies are hard at work, and we will learn more in the hours and days ahead.  For now, we can say for certain that we need to redouble our efforts to defend our country from threats at home and abroad.  That means defeating international terror groups, working with allies and partners to go after them wherever they are, countering their attempts to recruit people here and everywhere, and hardening our defenses at home. It also means refusing to be intimidated and staying true to our values.

“This was also an act of hate.  The gunman attacked an LGBT nightclub during Pride Month.  To the LGBT community: please know that you have millions of allies across our country.  I am one of them.  We will keep fighting for your right to live freely, openly and without fear.  Hate has absolutely no place in America.

“Finally, we need to keep guns like the ones used last night out of the hands of terrorists or other violent criminals.  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.

“This is a time to stand together and resolve to do everything we can to defend our communities and country.”

Equality Florida:

“We are reeling from the tragic news that a gunman opened fire on the 2am capacity crowd at Pulse leaving 20 people dead and 42 injured according to preliminary reports. We are heartbroken and angry that senseless violence has once again destroyed lives in our state and in our country. Gay clubs hold a significant place in LGBTQ history. They were often the only safe gathering place and this horrific act strikes directly at our sense of safety. June commemorates our community standing up to anti-LGBTQ violence at the Stonewall Inn, the nightclub that has become the first LGBTQ site recognized as a national monument. We have received a steady stream of emails and messages from those seeking to help or to make sense of the senseless. We make no assumptions on motive. We will await the details in tears of sadness and anger. We stand in solidarity and keep our thoughts on all whose lives have been lost or altered forever in this tragedy.”

CAIR-Florida’s Orlando Regional Coordinator Rasha Mubarak:

“We condemn this monstrous attack and offer our heartfelt condolences to the families and loved ones of all those killed or injured. The Muslim community joins our fellow Americans in repudiating anyone or any group that would claim to justify or excuse such an appalling act of violence.”

U.S. Senator Bill Nelson:

“Our thoughts and prayers go out to the families of all the victims of this horrific attack in Orlando. I have spoken with the FBI and there appears to be a link to Islamic radicalism. I have conferred with additional sources and they think there is likely a connection with ISIS. So as we all mourn the senseless loss of life and investigators continue to learn more, we must remain vigilant and remember that if you see something, say something.”

U.S. Senator Marco Rubio:

“I am devastated by this heartbreaking act of terrorism in Orlando. Jeanette and I join all Floridians and all Americans in grieving for those who lost their lives and praying for those who were injured in this senseless act of hatred, violence and terror. I want to thank the heroic police officers and first responders who prevented further loss of life, including the officer at the nightclub who first engaged the shooter. I would also like to encourage anyone living in Central Florida to donate blood to help the injured. As local, state and federal authorities investigate the perpetrator of this attack, my Senate office and I stand ready to assist – both by making sure the full weight of the federal government is used to hold anyone responsible for this incident to account, and also with any constituent service needs that arise for the impacted families. Confronting the threat of violent homegrown radicalization is one of the greatest counterterrorism challenges our law enforcement and intelligence community faces. We must do more at every level of government and within our own communities to identify and mitigate this cancer on our free society and prevent further loss of innocent life.”

Former U.S. Senator George LeMieux:

“Thoughts and prayers are with the victims and families of attack in Orlando.”

Governor Rick Scott:

“This is clearly an act of terror that happened in Orlando this morning.  It sickens me and makes me angry. Of course, this is a time of great tragedy, and in every tragedy, there is a flood of sadness, confusion and despair. But, this is an attack on our people.  An attack on Orlando.  An attack on Florida.  An attack on America.  An attack on all of us.

“We still have a lot of questions that are unanswered. Our prayers are with the families and loved ones of everyone touched by this senseless tragedy. I want to urge the people of our state to pray for the victims, families of those who have been killed and wounded.  Pray for our city, state and country.

“We are a great state.  We are a diverse state and we have wonderful people here in Florida that will respond with dignity, strength and fortitude in the days ahead.

“To the people who did this or may be thinking about doing something similar: you don’t want to commit an act of terror in our state.  In Florida, our justice system is swift and our penalties are severe.  We are at a 45-year crime low and proud to be a safe state for our 20 million residents and 100 million tourists.

“While our hearts are broken for the injuries and the loss of life that occurred here early this morning, I have every confidence that the Orlando community will come together and heal. We are a strong and resilient state.  We have declared a state of emergency in Orange County to ensure all resources are made available to handle this tragic incident.  We will also devote every and all available resources to help the city of Orlando heal.”

Lieutenant Governor Carlos Lopez-Cantera:

“Our prayers are with those and their families devastated by last night’s act of terror.”

Attorney General Pam Bondi:

“Praying for the victims, their families and our country after this senseless act of violence in Orlando.”

Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam:

“Our prayers are with victims and families in Orlando. Grateful for the brave law enforcement officers who responded.”

U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor:

“I am devastated by the terrible mass shooting in Orlando, a community of our friends and family. I share their anguish and that of the LGBTQ community. On behalf of them and my saddened neighbors in Tampa Bay, I pledge to work to root out terrorists who seek to do us harm, to fight for greater safety and security for our families, and work for greater understanding among all of our neighbors.  There is too much dissension and hate-inspired dialogue in America right now.  Dr. King said, “hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that”.  We must write it and say it aloud to each other today because at difficult times like these it is hard to hold to.

“The hateful attack will not stop our LBGTQ friends from celebrating pride in who they are, and it should move others to come together to affirm that love conquers hate. Equality Florida and the Human Rights Campaign reported that hate crimes based on sexual orientation currently account for 22 percent of all hate crimes in Florida, trailing only race as the most common motivation. As a percentage of the state population, LGBTQ Floridians are at the highest risk of being targeted with a hate crime. Florida law provides increased penalties for hate crimes based on sexual orientation.

“Nothing is more important than the safety of the families of my neighbors and all Americans. We must ensure that law enforcement, intelligence agencies and military service members have the tools they need to keep us safe.  Theses horrendous circumstances remind us that the Congress can act to reinstate the military, high-capacity assault weapons ban and pass legislation to prohibit any person on the national terrorism watch list from being able to purchase a firearm. Data from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) show that between 2004 and 2010, people on terrorism watch lists tried to buy guns and explosives more than 1,400 times. They succeeded in more than 90 percent of those cases, or 1,321 times. In 2013-14, the number of successful buyers rose to 94 percent, with 455 suspects buying weapons and just 30 denied as allowed under current laws. Of those denied, the GAO reported that none were denied because they were a terror threat, but because either there was a ‘felony conviction, under indictment, adjudicated mental health, misdemeanor crime of domestic violence conviction, fugitive from justice and controlled substance abuse.’”  We need to provide the tools like these to law enforcement to protect our communities from lone-wolf and other mass shootings.”

U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis on Twitter:

“My thoughts & prayers are w/ the victims, their families & ppl of Orlando. Thanks to law enforcement who responded to this act of terror.”

U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch:

“When violence strikes our community, we must stand together in solidarity with those whose lives have been forever changed – fifty families who now have a hole that will never be filled, and over fifty more whose injuries and trauma will affect them from this day forward. After the deadliest mass shooting in American history, I feel so deeply for these families, the city of #Orlando, our state of Florida, and our nation. I stand with the LGBT community this Pride month and whenever members of the community face violence, hatred or discrimination. And I am so grateful for the SWAT team, the police, paramedics and firefighters whose heroic actions saved lives.

“I offer sympathy, prayers and strength. I am sure we all do. But I’m also a Member of Congress, and thoughts and prayers alone are not a sufficient response.  Tomorrow, upon our return to Washington, we will be briefed about terror threats and radical Islamic violence. We will strengthen our resolve to defeat ISIS. We will continue to fight terrorism here and around the world.

“But that’s not enough. We’re mourning the deadliest mass shooting, and the American people expect us to battle terrorism, stand with the LGBT community AND to address the gun violence epidemic that plagues the country. Silence is not an option.

TOMORROW, when we return to Washington, we should have moment of silence for the victims – immediately followed by a vote to close the loophole that allows people on the terror watch list to buy assault rifles – or any weapon. This isn’t politics; it’s common sense.

“In the weeks to come, we should not be afraid to ask why, when an AR-15 assault rifle is the one thing that’s common to Orlando, San Bernardino and Newtown, we allow these deadly weapons to be freely available? And why every gun purchaser isn’t subject to a background check? And why the mental health crisis is’t urgently addressed?

“We must fight terrorism. And stand with the LGBT community. And do something to stem the horrific tide of gun violence.

“We must do all of it. Now. For Orlando.”

U.S. Rep. Lois Frankel:

“I am so sad for the Orlando shooting victims and their families. We must all stand together against hatred and violence.”

U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham:

“There are no words to fully express my emotions this morning. My heart breaks for the LGBT community, for the families who lost loved ones, and for our country.

“As we search for answers, we must come together as one community to mourn today. As we pray for the victims, their families and loved ones, we must also stand strong with the people of Orlando. While we mourn, we are thankful for the heroic actions of Orlando’s law enforcement officers, whose actions saved the lives of many.

“This act of terror is a hate crime against the entire LGBT community, and reminds us that hate and extremism is dangerous and disgusting in any form.

“In the coming days and weeks, we will learn more and work to ensure this never happens again, but today let us all stand together to love and support all of those hurt by this tragedy.”

U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson:

“This morning a gunman shot and killed at least 20 people at a nightclub in Orlando, and injured at least 40 others.  Our thoughts and our hearts go out to the victims, their families and the entire Orlando community. Words cannot express the horror, pain and sadness that we feel about this terrible loss. I commend the Orlando police for their heroic efforts to save the lives of those who could be saved.  Local and federal law enforcement are working right now to uncover more information about the motive and other circumstances of the shooting.”

U.S. Rep. David Jolly:

“We join together today as a nation to pray for the Orlando victims and their loved ones. This is our Paris. Let us resolve today to always confront and defeat terror at the hands of evil so that this may never happen again.”

U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy on Twitter:

“I am devastated by the news of the shooting in Orlando. My heart goes out to the victims and all those affected by this horrifying tragedy. Orlando is stronger than this act of hate and evil. Thank you to our brave first responders for your selfless actions.”

U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz on Twitter:

Heartbroken over another mass shooting. My thoughts are with the victims, their loved ones, and the entire Orlando LGBT community today.

U.S. Senate candidate Carlos Beruff:

“An evil act of a radical Islamic terrorist in Orlando. Thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families this morning.”

Florida Senate President Andy Gardiner:

“My first thoughts are with the victims of this horrific shooting and their families. I am a life-long resident of this community; my wife and I chose to raise our family here; and, my office at Orlando Health is two blocks from the nightclub, so I understand and share the concerns about public safety so many have expressed today. News reports speak to the heroic efforts of Orlando’s law enforcement officers and first responders. We are very grateful for their courage and dedication to our community. I am confident in the ability of our local law enforcement officers to effectively respond to this tragedy and to keep our community safe for residents and visitors. Our community is grateful for the thoughts and prayers of people across the country today.”

State Rep. Neil Combee, via Twitter:

“Radical Islamic Terrorist attacks Orlando nightclub. It was just a matter of time.”

State Rep. Matt Gaetz on Twitter:

“Today we ask God to comfort the families and victims of the #OrlandoShooting #Pray4Orlando”

Sate Rep. Blaise Ignoglia on Twitter:

“Pray for the family and friends of those lost and injured in the senseless, infuriating tragedy this AM. #PrayersForOrlando

State Rep. Kionne McGhee on Twitter:

“Prayers for the great people of Orlando @OrlandoPolice. An Act of Terrorism can’t stop the smiles & happiness Orlando provides to the World.”

State Rep. Jared Moskowitz:

“Hope your paying attention Marion Hammer”

State Rep. Mark Pafford:

“Orlando is now the victim of America’s most horrific incident of gun violence ever. It’s beyond belief. It makes me mad and it makes me more determined than ever to work to protect all of us from these awful events. Of course I’m seeing the same initial information coming out about this event as everyone else, but I think it’s important that all of us hold on before we leap to conclusions. It’s time now to hold each other close, reach out to our friends and family who are victims and do what we can to respond constructively.”

State Rep. Linda Stewart:

“As a long time ally, with many loved ones in the LGBT community, I am mourning the tragedy that took place at Pulse Orlando Nightclub this morning. Pulse is a place where a person could be their true self and they were accepted, respected, and loved. It has long been considered a safe place in Orlando for the LGBT community. My heart goes out to the victims and their families of this senseless tragedy. I encourage everyone in Orlando to give blood or volunteer their time and resources to those impacted. We must show that Orlando can truly come together and create a safe place for the LGBT community once again.”

 Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs:

“Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of this morning’s senseless tragedy. There is a lot of uncertainty at this time. The County is requesting a state of emergency in Orange County from the Governor, which will allow new resources to help expedite the identification process. The Medical Examiner’s office will be working as quickly as possible. Rather than going to the hospital, we’re asking that concerned family members go to the Family Assistance Center, which is being moved to the Hampton Inn at 43 Columbia Street. Family members may call 407-246-4357. We stand with local, state and federal law enforcement and other response agencies in their resolve to keep us safe in these most horrific times.”

Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn:

“Our deepest thoughts and prayers are with the City of Orlando and the victims and families of this senseless tragedy. Orlando is a strong and resilient community and will join together to overcome. We, at the City of Tampa, are here to do whatever we can to assist Mayor Dyer and the first responders as they investigate. This tragedy is particularly horrific for our GLBT community and their families and Tampa stands in solidarity with them in their time of loss.”

Congressional candidate Val Demings:

“Mass Shooting. These words are too familiar to our nation. Now, we hear these words here at home. My heart is heavy as I join you in processing just what lead to this tragic, senseless shooting this morning. My prayers are with the victims, families, friends.”

Congressional candidate Chauncey Goss on Twitter:

“My prayers are with Orlando victims and families today. Thanks to law enforcement for putting their lives on the line for us every day.”

Congressional candidate Dena Grayson:

“Horrified that #GunViolence has ravaged #Orlando. Mass shootings are a public health EPIDEMIC & must be stopped NOW!#GunControlNow#Pulse”

Florida Democratic Party’s Allison Tant:

“My heart breaks for the victims and their families after this morning’s senseless attack. I want to thank the first responders, medical teams, and Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer for their leadership and bravery in the face of this unspeakable tragedy. Florida Democrats proudly stand arm in arm with the LGBT community offering our love and our support in the difficult hours and days to come. Today, the thoughts and prayers of all Floridians are with the victims, their friends and families, and the people of Orlando.”

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.