US

Joe Biden promises to make Pulse nightclub a national memorial as he marks the shooting’s fifth anniversary

Patrick Kelleher June 13, 2021
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President Joe Biden

President Joe Biden speaks during a commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the Tulsa Race Massacre in Tulsa, Oklahoma on 1 June 2021.(Photo by MANDEL NGAN/AFP via Getty)

Joe Biden has promised that he will sign a bill designating the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida as a national memorial “in the coming days”.

The president of the United States issued his commitment as the world marked the fifth anniversary of the Pulse nightclub shooting, which remains the deadliest attack on the LGBT+ community in American history.

In a statement released on Saturday (12 June), Joe Biden said the Pulse nightclub was “a place of acceptance and joy” for Orlando’s LGBT+ community before the horrific massacre, which left 49 dead and 53 others wounded.

The events of 12 June 2016 turned Pulse – a local gay club – into “a place of unspeakable pain and loss” as those celebrating a Latin night were brutally murdered, Biden said.

A few days after the shooting, Biden – who was then serving as vice-president of the United States – travelled to Orlando with Barack Obama to pay his respects to those killed and their families.

There, he paid tribute to the “brave first responders and the community who found strength and compassion in each other” and pledged that the massacre “would not be forgotten.”

“Over the years, I have stayed in touch with families of the victims and with the survivors who have turned their pain into purpose, and who remind us that we must do more than remember victims of gun violence and all of the survivors, family members, and friends left behind; we must act,” Biden wrote.

“In the coming days, I will sign a bill designating Pulse nightclub as a national memorial, enshrining in law what has been true since that terrible day five years ago: Pulse Nightclub is hallowed ground.”

Biden said there is “more we must do to address the public health epidemic of gun violence in all of its forms”, noting that such acts of brutality occur every day but rarely make national headlines.

“It is long past time we close the loopholes that allow gun buyers to bypass background checks in this country, and the Senate should start by passing the three House-passed bills which would do exactly that,” he wrote.

The president called for assault weapons and “high capacity magazines” to be banned, and said “extreme risk protection orders” – also known as “red flag” laws – should be established.

Furthermore, he said gun manufacturers should lose their “immunity from liability”.

Closing out his statement, Biden wrote: “We must also acknowledge gun violence’s particular impact on LGBTQ+ communities across our nation.

“We must drive out hate and inequities that contribute to the epidemic of violence and murder against transgender women – especially transgender women of colour. We must create a world in which our LGBTQ+ young people are loved, accepted and feel safe in living their truth.

“And the Senate must swiftly pass the Equality Act, legislation that will ensure LGBTQ+ Americans finally have equal protection under the law.”

He added: “In the memory of all of those lost at the Pulse nightclub five years ago, let us continue the work to be a nation at our best – one that recognises and protects the dignity and safety of every American.”

Biden’s promise came just one day after two of his senior advisors met with LGBT+ and gun violence prevention activists to mark the fifth anniversary of the Pulse nightclub shooting.

Domestic policy advisor Susan Rice and White House public engagement director Cedric Richmond hosted a virtual roundtable on Friday (11 June) to discuss solutions to the epidemic of gun violence in America. Activists discussed the impact gun violence has on trans people – particularly trans women of colour.

The bill to designate the Pulse nightclub as a national memorial site passed through the House of Representatives in May, while the Senate voted unanimously in favour of the measure on Wednesday (9 June).

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