Orlando shooting survivors to speak at Democratic National Convention

UPDATE: See what Christine Leinonen said Wednesday at the Democratic National Convention


Two survivors of the Orlando nightclub shooting last month, along with the mother of one of the attack’s victims, will speak tonight at the Democratic National Convention.

Christine Leinonen, seen here June 12 outside of the Orlando Regional Medical Center police. 50 people are reported dead and 53 were injured. (Photo by Gerardo Mora/Getty Images)
Christine Leinonen, seen here June 12 outside of the Orlando Regional Medical Center, lost her son, Christopher, in the attack on the Pulse nightclub in Orlando. (Photo by Gerardo Mora/Getty Images)

Christine Leinonen’s son, Christopher, was one of the 49 people killed in the incident where a gunman from Fort Pierce stormed into the Pulse gay nightclub’s “Latin night” event.

Brandon Wolf and Jose Arraigada, two survivors of the attack, also will speak.

>>READ MORE: Coverage of the Orlando Shooting

The trio follows a lineup of speakers earlier in the week who have taken on the issue of gun violence.

Tuesday night, a group of mothers whose children were killed by gun violence or during encounters with law enforcement.

Follow The Palm Beach Post for updates from tonight’s session.


Scott calls Dallas police shooting “senseless and cowardly act”

Gov. Rick Scott
Gov. Rick Scott

Gov. Rick Scott, who just last month was dealing with the massacre of 49 patrons at an Orlando nightclub, said Friday that he and wife, Ann, are praying for residents of Dallas following the shooting of 12 police officers at a protest, resulting in five killed.

“This morning, Ann and I are heartbroken to hear of the horrendous tragedy that took place in Texas last night,” Scott said.

“The violence displayed against Dallas law enforcement was a senseless and cowardly act that has no place in our country. Law enforcement officers across the nation bravely put their lives on the line every day in order to protect our homes, our communities, and our families.

“We join of all of America in mourning these fallen heroes and praying for the recovery of those injured. Just as Texas stood with Florida following the Orlando terror attack last month, Florida will stand with Texas during this unfathomably difficult time.”

Florida Democrats continue push for special session on no-fly, no-buy

Florida Democrats seeking special session on no-fly, no-buy
Florida Democrats seeking special session on no-fly, no-buy

Florida Democratic lawmakers continued to push Tuesday for a special legislative session in the wake of the Orlando nightclub massacre to ban people on the federal “no-fly” or terrorist watch list from obtaining weapons.

Sen. Darren Soto, an Orlando Democrat campaigning for Congress, and Rep. Jared Moskowitz, D-Coral Springs, said that 46 Democratic members of the House and Senate have certified the need for a special session, a procedural move that sets in motion a poll of all member, conducted by the Florida Secretary of State’s office.

If 60 percent of each chamber agrees, a special session would be set. It’s a longshot, though. Republicans have overwhelming majorities in the House and Senate and so far, leaders have shown no interest in a special session.

The U.S. Senate recently rejected a similar no-fly, no-buy proposal — just as they did last December. Omar Mateen, the ISIS-supporting shooter in the Orlando massacre, formerly was on the terrorist watch list.

“Nothing would change for one single law-abiding citizen or NRA member who wants to buy a gun,” Moskowitz said.

“They would be able to do so without any change in the way that happens now so long as they are not a suspected terrorist. But for the safety of this nation, for the safety of our people in Florida, we have to close this breach in our nation’s security, shut this loophole that threatens our safety, with or without Washington’s help,” he added.


Nelson says Obama is nation’s “consoler in chief,” after meetings with Orlando families

Sen. Bill Nelson outside Orlando's Amway Center
Sen. Bill Nelson outside Orlando’s Amway Center

Florida Democrat Bill Nelson said President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden met Thursday with individual groups of family members of victims of the Pulse nightclub shooting.

Nelson called Obama the “consoler in chief” and said officials shared a similar message in meetings that he described as somber yet emotional. About 100 people attended, the senator said.

“What you tell the families is we appreciate your loved one, and they will not be forgotten,” Nelson said.

» RELATED: The latest updates on the Orlando shooting

Nelson talked with reporters across the street from Orlando’s downtown Amway Center, where the president’s motorcade passed small groups of onlookers gathered on city street corners. Obama, Biden and other officials also met with law enforcement personnel who stormed the Pulse on Sunday morning after Omar Mateen killed 49 people and wounded 53 others.

Before heading to Orlando, Nelson had taken part in a 15-hour filibuster led by Sen. Chris Murphy of Connecticut, with Democrats demanding action on gun bills.

Republicans agreed to schedule votes on Democrat-sponsored legislation that would ban gun sales to suspected terrorists and expand background checks for gun buyers. But they were still debating which gun measures their side would offer for consideration.

Nelson said he was urging senators “don’t be chicken,” and support restricting gun sales. All told, Nelson said he was frustrated and angered by the spate of gun tragedies in recent years — topped by the nation’s worst last weekend in Orlando.

“How many more times are he and Vice President Joe Biden going to have to go through this. This is like the plague that is upon us.


Federal prosecutor: Could be “days, weeks…years” before Orlando shooting probe concludes

FBI Special Agent Ronald Hopper
FBI Special Agent Ronald Hopper

Local and federal law enforcement officials said Wednesday that accused gunman Omar Mateen did not apparently spend the hours leading to the massacre at an Orlando nightclub casing other locations for possible violence.

“This was the intended point of attack for that night,” said FBI Special Agent Ron Hopper.

» RELATED: The latest updates on the Orlando shooting

Law enforcement said they were still interviewing dozens of people associated with Mateen, but offered few details into recurring speculation that Mateen may have earlier visited Walt Disney World or other Orlando-area theme parks as possible targets.

U.S. Attorney Lee Bentley, also said that it could be a “matter of days, weeks, it could be years,” before the investigation into the attack at the Pulse was completed.

Bentley also would not speak about whether charges could be forthcoming against Mateen family members or associates stemming from the attack.


Orlando Democrats call for special session to block terror suspects from guns

Orlando Democrats call for special session to stop terror suspects from getting guns
Orlando Democrats call for special session to stop terror suspects from getting guns

Orlando Democratic lawmakers Wednesday asked Gov. Rick Scott to call a special session of the Florida Legislature to forge a state law banning those on the federal terrorist “watch list” and “no-fly list” from being able to obtain weapons.

Omar Mateen, the accused shooter in the murder of 49 people at an Orlando gay nightclub, was on the watch list for a year beginning in 2013 and was interviewed by the FBI three times for comments or activity seen as supporting terrorism. Mateen legally purchased the AR-15 rifle and handgun used in the Pulse shooting at a Port St. Lucie gun shop.

» RELATED: The latest updates on the Orlando shooting

Sen. Darren Soto, D-Orlando, who said that at least 13 of those killed lived in his district. He called the murders a “blatant act of domestic terrorism.”

“We come here today with a proposal that is narrowly tailored to put forward an idea that both parties can agree on: That known or suspected terrorists should not be able to possess firearms in the state of Florida,” Soto said.

While the measure would ban those on current federal lists from legally obtaining weapons, the proposal also would give the Florida Department of Law Enforcement authority to conduct its own background checks of those removed from the lists if they seek to make a gun purchase.

Congress last year rejected legislation aimed at barring those on the terror watch list from gun access.

Among those gathered outside the Orange County Courthouse was Rep. John Cortes, D-Kissimmee, a retired corrections officer whose son, John Paul, narrowly missed going to the Pulse that evening with two friends, killed in the massacre.

“This has to be a bipartisan effort,” Cortes said, adding, “To protect our families…If I ever lost my son, I’d be devastated.”

But Florida House Speaker Steve Crisafulli, R-Merritt Island, gave the Democrats’ request little chance for swift action.

“All of Florida is grieving over the horrific slaughter of innocent lives in Orlando,” Crisafulli said. “There will be no shortage of ideas on the state and federal level to ensure our families and communities are safe.”

He added: “Thoughtful consideration will be given to all proposals to improve public safety in a rational, effective, and constitutional manner.”


Family assistance center opens at Orlando stadium as donations top $1.5 M following shootings

Orlando strong2


Orlando officials said Wednesday they have opened a community assistance area at the stadium formerly known as the Citrus Bowl near downtown, even as the One Orlando relief fund has collected more than $1.5 million in its opening day.

“We stand more united than ever,” Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer said, who was joined by Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs at Camping World Stadium for the morning announcement.

» RELATED: The latest updates on the Orlando shooting

Dyer also said that plots have been made available at the city’s historic Greenwood Cemetery for the 49 fatalities from the early Sunday shooting at the Pulse nightclub.

The assistance center will provide grief counseling, translation services, public records help and other aid to those seeking to bury family members or help the 53 people wounded in the shooting. Counseling also is available for first responders and anyone in the community struggling to deal with what Jacobs called, “the greatest tragedy our community has ever witnessed.”

At a conservative church, purple ribbons and prayer show bond with victims and survivors of Orlando shooting

Purple ribbons were worn by worshipers at Tuesday's prayer vigil at Orlando's First Baptist.
Purple ribbons were worn by worshipers at Tuesday’s prayer vigil at Orlando’s First Baptist.

A prayer vigil for the victims and survivors of the massacre at an Orlando gay nightclub drew hundreds of worshipers Tuesday night to the city’s First Baptist Church, a congregation more used to hosting Florida Republican candidates every election season.

The church opposes same-sex marriage. And Republican candidates usually find a ready audience of likely voters when mingling with parishioners and endorsing what are seen as traditional family values.

» Video, photos, more: See full coverage of the Orlando shooting

But purple ribbons handed out by ushers to those attending Tuesday’s service symbolized that “we stand together,” said Pastor David Uth.

He said that “Orlando is not going to be defined,” by the shootings.

Many parishioners agreed.

“Time doesn’t change. But people change,” said Lynn Musich, 53, an office manager who has been a First Baptist member for more than 40 years.

John Alphin, a retired Defense Department worker now an usher at the church, said parishioners over the years have taken a more accepting view of Orlando’s large gay community.  The bond has deepened since last weekend’s shootings, he said.

“The church doesn’t condone the lifestyle, but we don’t hate the people,” Alphin said.

Orlando shootings likely to echo through campaign season in Florida

Several Florida Republicans condemned the Obama administration for not aggressively combating the Islamic State. Congressional Democrats revived legislation that would deny people on a federal terrorism watch list the ability to purchase guns.

The Orlando shootings that left 50 dead, including the shooter, and 53 injured also prompted comments from Florida Republican U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio that raised speculation he may be re-thinking plans not to seek re-election.

“When it impacts a community you know, well, it really gives you pause to think a little bit about your service to your country, and where you can be most useful to your country,” Rubio said in an interview with radio host Hugh Hewitt.

Rubio has until the end of the campaign qualifying period, June 24, to make up his mind.

Although five prominent Republican candidates and two congressional Democrats are already among those looking to succeed Rubio, his ambiguous comments quickly drew the attention of Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid.

On the Senate floor Monday, Reid skewered “Republican obstruction” as leading to the defeat last year of efforts to blunt gun violence. Mocking Rubio for reconsidering a Senate run, Reid said, “He better reconsider his gun votes.”

Full story:  http://bit.ly/21jiBF9

Nelson renews fight to limit guns for terrorists; Scott speaks with President Bush about Orlando shootings

Sen. Bill Nelson
Sen. Bill Nelson

Florida’s Bill Nelson joined fellow Democratic U.S. senators Monday in citing the Orlando nightclub shootings as another reason for moving forward with limiting gun access to possible terrorists.

Nelson said the FBI has “done a great job, but they were handicapped,” in tracking Omar Mateen, the accused gunman believed to have been inspired by ISIS.

Nelson and Sens. Dianne Feinstein of California, Charles Schumer of New York and Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut said they were renewing efforts for the Senate to approve a gun-purchasing ban for those on the FBI’s terrorist watchlist, a move which supporters said also gives investigators authority to refuse gun-access for others suspected of being a security risk.

Similar legislation failed last year.

“I don’t know what it will take to change the mindset of this Congress,” Feinstein conceded in a conference call with reporters.

Gov. Rick Scott, meanwhile, spoke to former President George W. Bush on Monday in the wake of the shootings.

“Thank you President George W. Bush and First Lady Laura Bush for your call today,” Scott said on his Twitter account. “We appreciate your prayers.”