President Joe Biden issued a statement Saturday marking the 5th anniversary of the Pulse Nightclub shooting, one of the deadliest mass shootings in American history, pledging that he will sign a bill designating the site as a national memorial.
The president said his action will enshrine “in law what has been true since that terrible day five years ago: Pulse Nightclub is hallowed ground."
On June 12, 2016, 29-year-old Omar Mateen killed 49 people and wounded more than 50 others at Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida, many of whom were Latino and LGBTQ+. Mateen called Spectrum News 13 and said that he was the shooter, adding that he carried it out on behalf of ISIS. He later died in a shootout with police.
“Five years ago today in Orlando in the middle of Pride Month, our nation suffered the deadliest attack affecting the LGBTQ+ community in American history, and at the time, the deadliest mass shooting by a single gunman,” Biden wrote.
“Within minutes, the Pulse nightclub that had long been a place of acceptance and joy turned into a place of unspeakable pain and loss,” he continued. “Forty-nine people were there celebrating Latin night were murdered, even more injured, and countless others scarred forever – the victims were family members, partners and friends, veterans and students, young, Black, Asian and Latino – our fellow Americans.”
Just days before the 5th anniversary of the tragedy, the Senate passed a bill to designate Pulse as a national memorial by unanimous consent.
“This week, on the fifth anniversary of this unthinkable tragedy, the state of Florida comes together to honor the lives lost too soon,” Florida GOP Sen. Rick Scott said Wednesday as he introduced the legislation. “And we vow to always stand up and fight against evil and hatred in this world.”
The bill was co-sponsored by Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, as well as Sen. Alex Padilla, D-Calif. The House unanimously passed the measure in May.
“We are thrilled that the U.S. Senate passed the bill designating Pulse nightclub as a national memorial,” Pulse wrote on Facebook. “A very special thank you to Senators Rick Scott, Marco Rubio and Alex Padilla for introducing the bill in the Senate.”
“The unanimous consent is such welcome news as we are set to mark the five-year remembrance of the Pulse tragedy,” the post continued. “This recognition from both the House and Senate means so much to the LGBTQ+ community.”
Biden went on to say that “there is more we must do” to address gun violence, urging the Senate to take action on background checks, which passed the House months ago, as well as pass the Equality Act to ensure that “LGBTQ+ Americans finally have equal protection under law.”
“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,” Biden wrote. “It is long past time we ban assault weapons and high capacity magazines, establish extreme risk protection orders, also known as ‘red flag’ laws, and eliminate gun manufacturers’ immunity from liability.”
“We must also acknowledge gun violence’s particular impact on LGBTQ+ communities across our nation,” he continued. “We must drive out hate and inequities that contribute to the epidemic of violence and murder against transgender women – especially transgender women of color. We must create a world in which our LGBTQ+ young people are loved, accepted, and feel safe in living their truth.”
“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 recognizes and protects the dignity and safety of every American,” the president concluded.