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Patrick Murphy joins Pulse victim’s mom calling for renewed push for gun controls

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Democratic U.S. Senate candidate U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy joined the mother of a Pulse nightclub massacre victim in Orlando Thursday to call for Congress to reconsider two failed gun control measures and to blast U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio for not supporting them.

Murphy was joined on the steps of Orlando City Hall Wednesday by Christine Leinonen, whose son was one of 49 people slain in the June 12 Pulse shooting, and by Jose Arraigada, who was her son’s boyfriend.

It was Murphy’s first public visit to Orlando since the massacre. It also was his first call in Central Florida for measures to control such violence, specifically legislation to require universal background checks for gun purchases and to prevent people being watched by the FBI from being able to buy guns.

Murphy said he didn’t come to Orlando sooner because he didn’t want to be among those he said were politicizing the Pulse tragedy. He also said that in the past six weeks he’s been in close touch with Pulse families, including Leinonen, who on Thursday offered her tearful support for Murphy.

“No one, no mom, no mom, wants to be part of a group that has to speak before the people and try to get the people to shift how society is, and this is so solvable,” Leinonen said. “We’re right there. All we have to do is shift our focus just slightly, just like we did before with car safety. We can do this. We can make our society what we want it to be.”

Her son, Christopher Leinonen, was one of 49 people killed when the gay-hating, ISIS-pledging Omar Mateen entered the nightclub and opened fire on the crowds inside. Another 53 people were wounded.

“If we want to live in a society where moms have to lose their sons while they’re dancing, then that’s the kind of society we’re going to get,” she said. “But if we want a society that keeps high-powered weapons out of the hands of regular people … who grow up in an arena of violence and hatred. We do not have to have these guns in the hands of people who have this kind of anger.”

“I believe Patrick Murphy is the solution that we’re looking for,” she said.

Murphy focused on the fact that the shooting was a hate crime, rather than discuss it as a terrorist attack.

“This shooting was an attack on the LGBT community. And it’s a hate crime. And it’s irresponsible for anybody to imply otherwise,” Murphy said. “The victims of Pulse were family and friends of so many.”

In the days following Pulse, the U.S. Senate took up four gun control bills, two authored by Republicans and two by Democrats. All failed, mostly along party lines. Rubio voted for two. A fifth bill, introduced by Republican U.S. Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, to keep people on the federal “no-fly” list from purchasing guns, also failed, and Rubio voted against that.

“He is so opposed to any sort of reasonable common sense gun prevention measures that he voted against a bill his own party wrote and introduced. But he came here last week,” Murphy said. “Had the audacity to come here, had the audacity to use the Pulse nightclub shooting as one of his reasons to run for re-election. And then he comes here last week and he hides from Floridians who came here to talk to him.

“That’s not leadership,” Murphy said. “That’s cowardice.”

Scott Powers is an Orlando-based political journalist with 30+ years’ experience, mostly at newspapers such as the Orlando Sentinel and the Columbus Dispatch. He covers local, state and federal politics and space news across much of Central Florida. His career earned numerous journalism awards for stories ranging from the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster to presidential elections to misplaced nuclear waste. He and his wife Connie have three grown children. Besides them, he’s into mystery and suspense books and movies, rock, blues, basketball, baseball, writing unpublished novels, and being amused. Email him at scott@floridapolitics.com.

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