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Pulse survivor delivers sobering account of Florida mass shooting to Congress while urging for gun reform

Vic Parsons September 19, 2019
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Crowds mourning those lost in the Pulse Nightclub massacre. (Drew Angerer/Getty)

Survivor of the Pulse nightclub shooting Brandon Wolf, who is also part of Florida’s LGBT+ advocacy group Equality Florida, will deliver a speech to Congress today about the need for common-sense gun legislation.

Wolf will be speaking to the Committee on Ways and Means in the House of Representatives today, 19 September.

His two best friends, Christopher “Drew” Leinonen and Juan Guerrero, were killed in the June 2016 shooting at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando that saw 49 mostly Latinx LGBT+ people killed.

“I will never forget calling Juan’s family to tell them their son had been shot,” Wolf will tell members of Congress, according to Out magazine.

“His mother’s heartbroken screams in the background. And I can never unsee their lifeless bodies in cold, hard caskets — a painful reminder that this was a nightmare none of us would wake up from.”

The Orlando shooter used an AR-15 rifle, which was also the style of gun used in several of the mass shootings that followed Pulse: Parkland school in Florida; Dayton, Ohio; El Paso, Texas; Thousand Oaks, California; Virginia Beach, Virginia; and Las Vegas, among others.

Pulse survivor Wolf, 30, will tell Congress that the time to act is long overdue.

Wolf will say: “The night of June 11, 2016 was ordinary. Just like I always did after a long week, I went for a drink with my best friends, Drew and Juan.”

“To be honest, there are many moments from that night and the early hours of June 12 that are lost behind a traumatic fog. But there are others that are crystal clear.

I remember dancing. I remember Juan’s silly laugh. Drew’s long arm around my shoulder as he told me we should say ‘I love you’ more often. I remember we accidentally wore matching outfits.

“Before I knew it, it was 2 am. I remember cold water from the faucet. A plastic cup teetering on the edge of the sink. I remember gunshots. Confusion. The rancid smell of blood and smoke that still burns my nose.

“I remember the hair standing up on the back of my neck. My heart pounding as I crouched on the bathroom floor. The faces of terror on those trapped there with me. The panicked sprint for an exit. And I swear I can still hear every one of the 110 rounds that man fired into the crowd.

“I must have called Drew a hundred times over the next few hours, every dial more desperate than the last. I begged everyone for news of my friends, roamed the sidewalks until the sun came up, only to go home and stare at the television waiting for their names on a list.

“I will never forget calling Juan’s family to tell them their son had been shot. His mother’s heartbroken screams in the background. And I can never unsee their lifeless bodies in cold, hard caskets – a painful reminder that this was a nightmare none of us would wake up from.”

Wolf wants three things: universal background checks on people buying guns, “extreme risk protection orders” so that people deemed dangerous by law enforcement can have their guns taken away, and legal loopholes closed so that people who have misdemeanour hate-crime convictions can’t access guns.

More: brandon wolf, gun control, pulse shooting

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