Comments of Mark Poloncarz, Erie County Executive, as prepared for delivery before a vigil in remembrance and honor of the victims of the Pulse Orlando massacre on June 13, 2016 at Niagara Square, Buffalo.
Today we gather to remember and honor the victims of the horrible massacre perpetrated this weekend at Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida.
49 lives were cut short at the hands of a madman. 49 families have been destroyed because of the twisted hatred of one man.
Another 53 individuals were shot, though thankfully because of the incredible efforts of law enforcement, first responders, and medical personnel they are still alive.
While there appears to have been some connection regarding the shooter and international Islamic terrorism, and we still do not have all the information on what lead to this massacre, make no mistake about it, this appears to have been a targeted attack against the LGBTQ community.
This was an attack against all of us, because when you attack the LGBTQ community you are attacking the very fabric of America.
This was an attack on the rights on an individual to love who they want and to live their life as an American. In the words of our founders, this was an attack on the unalienable rights we all have as an American, including Liberty, the pursuit of Happiness, and, of course, Life.
The victims of this horror were not just gay, lesbian, bisexual, transsexual, questioning, and, when all the names are known, even heterosexual in nature, they were Americans.
They were our sons and daughters.
They were our brothers and sisters. They were our friends and co-workers.
They were moms and dads, and now that same sex marriage is legal in all 50 states, they were husbands and wives.
They were the many faces that make up America. They were all of us.
We need to remember them. However, I am sorry to say, we cannot honor their memories solely through our thoughts and prayers. They deserve better.
Civil rights pioneer Fannie Lou Hamer used to say, “I am sick and tired of being sick and tired.”
I feel the same way. I am sick and tired of offering our thoughts and prayers when people who gather together, whether children in a school, patrons in a movie theatre, students at a college, co-workers at a party, or now people at a club are murdered in cold blood.
I am sick and tired of hearing that the right of an individual to own an assault weapon is greater than mine, yours and was their right to live.
Unfortunately Orlando, known as the home of the “Happiest Place on Earth,” now joins the lexicon of Newtown, Connecticut; Aurora, Colorado; Umpqua, Oregon; and San Bernardino, California as the location of a mass killing by an individual with a semi-automatic assault rifle. The tragedies that happened in those communities could have occurred in Buffalo or Cheektowaga or Springville.
The gun used by the murderers in all of those shootings is the same gun – an AR-15.
This gun used to be banned as an assault weapon in the United States; however, when the ban ended in 2004 it became legal to purchase one again.
Friends, I am sorry but if we are to truly honor those killed Saturday night at Pulse, we must dedicate ourselves to do all we can to prevent these mass shootings from occurring again.
That includes fighting domestic or international terrorism wherever it may be, as well preventing the sale of arms that are created for one purpose: to kill as many people in as short a time as possible.
Also, no one who is on a no-fly list should be able to purchase firearms. If you cannot fly you should not be able to buy.
While we can never one-hundred percent prevent a madman from causing death and destruction, we can take these and other actions. We must unite as Americans to take these weapons of mass destruction off the market.
We must also unite to protect the rights of all to not only love who they want, but to worship as they see fit.
The shooter may have been a Muslim, and may have been guided by some form of radical Islamic tenets, but he does not represent the whole of Islam.
We must not declare war on an entire religion.
We must stand up to violence and hate carried out in name of any religion or cause, just like we must reject those who would trample on the rights of others solely because of the other’s religion.
Christians, Jews, and Muslims are all the sons and daughters of Abraham. We share common history, and in this country we share our common right to live the life we see fit, to love and marry the person of our choice, to live the life we are born to live.
The sons and daughters of Abraham are gay as well as straight, Christian as well as Muslim, and in this country, are all Americans.
So let us remember those who were killed at Pulse, just like we must remember the children and teachers who were murdered at Sandy Hook Elementary, and we must remember all those who died in a mass shooting at the hands of madman.
However, if we are truly to honor all of them, we must do more than remember them, we must take action to prevent such mass murders from ever happening again.
If we do that, we will not just honor their memories but restore a measure of sanity to what is truly the greatest country on Earth.
Thank you and God bless.