WASHINGTON — For the first time, members of Congress heard testimony from a Pulse nightclub shooting survivor during a U.S. House committee hearing on Capitol Hill on Thursday.
- Brandon Wolf testified during Ways and Means Committee Hearing
- Wolf joined calls for stricter gun laws
- More DC Bureau stories
- FULL COVERAGE: Remembering the lives lost at Orlando's Pulse nightclub
Brandon Wolf told lawmakers about the three agonizing hours during which he hid from the shooter’s 110 rounds of ammunition, as well as the dear friends who didn’t make it out alive.
“My best friends are not a statistic," Wolf said during his opening statement before the House Ways and Means Committee. "They're empty seats at dinner tables, missing faces at birthday parties."
Wolf was with his two best friends, Christopher “Drew” Leinonen and Juan Guerrero when a gunman opened fire inside the Orlando nightclub, killing 49 and wounding more than 50 others inside. He said sharing those painful memories in public was difficult.
“It was emotional. It was traumatizing to go back through that experience,” Wolf said after the hearing.
“This is a once in a lifetime shot," he explained. "It’s been over three years and no one from our community has had this opportunity."
"I understood that if I didn’t take it and seize it and really share the story and all of the parts — even the hard parts — with these folks who might disagree with me, the moment would pass and they may never hear a story like mine again.” he went on.
Florida Rep. Stephanie Murphy (D-7th District) introduced Wolf ahead of his testimony. She believes his message struck a chord with colleagues on the panel.
“I had some members approach me after just to tell me how impactful his testimony was,” Murphy said.
Wolf, too, believes he was able to break through with members who don’t share the same views.
“One of the Republican members approached me afterward and talked about, 'I’m a dad and I can’t possibly imagine what you went through that night and I can’t imagine if my kids had to experience that same thing,'” Wolf said.
“I know our stories were heard," he added. "I know we all want to get there. He closed that conversation by saying I don’t think there’s a member of this body that doesn’t want to get to where you’re talking about. We just have to figure out how to get there."
Wolf’s call for stricter gun laws comes as the White House and lawmakers are attempting to come up with a proposal to curb gun violence six weeks after mass shootings in Texas and Ohio killed more than 30 people. However, they have yet to find common ground.
“It is incredibly frustrating to me to see the President waffle on an issue that is taking the lives of so many Americans,” Murphy said.
However, Wolf remains optimistic and isn’t ready to throw in the towel.
“I think our fight is worthwhile," Wolf said. "I think we are doing the right work but I need to see some action.”