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Responses To Orlando Shooting Vary Among Area Political Leaders

From left to right: U.S. Senators Chris Murphy and Richard Blumenthal, along with Rep. Elizabeth Esty address the shooting in Orlando.
Twitter: @SenBlumenthal
From left to right: U.S. Senators Chris Murphy and Richard Blumenthal, along with Rep. Elizabeth Esty address the shooting in Orlando.

Political leaders in Massachusetts and Connecticut are reacting differently to this weekend’s shooting in Orlando, Florida. The shooting at a gay nightclub Sunday morning killed 50 people, making it the deadliest shooting on American soil. As information continues to come out about the shooter and the victims, leaders from across the region are addressing the incident, including U.S. Senator Chris Murphy. The Connecticut Democrat says his state knows too well what something like this feels like after the December 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

“For me, a mix of sorrow, grief and anger,” Murphy said. “I’m angry that we’re going to go back to Congress this week and we’re going to debate the Department of Commerce funding bill as if this never happened. Instead of sitting down and trying to figure out how Republicans and Democrats can come together and pass some legislation that will make this less likely. I don’t understand why Congress, after this happens with regularity, just continues to box its ears, close its eyes and pretend like this epidemic doesn’t exist.”

Murphy, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, says the shooting entails elements of radicalization, gun policy and homophobia. Investigators say the shooter, 29-year-old Omar Mateen, expressed disdain for gay men and pledged support to the Islamic State terrorist group. The shooter was armed with an AR-15 rifle and a pistol. Murphy says the terrorist group is being beaten in Syria and Iraq and therefore is relying more than ever on so-called lone wolf attacks in Europe and the United States to continue its mission. He targeted the comments of Donald Trump, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee.

“It’s important that we ban assault weapons,” Murphy said. “But I would argue that it’s even more important that we come together as a community to provide no more recruitment material for ISIS to gather future lone wolf attackers. Donald Trump’s rhetoric is another gift to ISIS. His irresponsible behavior over the course of the last 48 hours suggesting that the President may secretly support these attacks or reiterating his call to ban all Muslims from this country, that plays into the hands of ISIS when it is trying to convince people in this country that they live on the margins of our society.”

Sometimes reluctant to discuss events in the scope of national politics, Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker weighed in on the shooting. The Republican says investigators need to do their work and the facts need to come out especially when it comes to the shooter’s motivations before people draw conclusions.

“I think folks who are trying to use this horrible act, which is having enormously tragic consequences for dozens and dozens of people, as a tool in any kind of political fight from any side are not thinking straight about this at all,” said Baker.

In a tweet Sunday, Trump reiterated his call for a ban on Muslims coming into the United States and in a speech Monday pledged to ban immigration from countries with a history of terrorism against the U.S. and its allies. In a press conference Monday, Baker says he stands by his comment that he doesn’t think Trump has the temperament to be president. Baker reiterated his support for Massachusetts’ current gun laws, considered among the toughest in the country, which include a ban on assault weapons.

Congresswoman Elizabeth Esty, a Connecticut Democrat who represents Newtown, says it’s her duty to see what Congress can do to protect Americans.

“You could call that political, but I would call that democracy for what we need to be doing,” said Esty.

Connecticut U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal says he hopes the shooting is a tipping point for Congress to act on gun control including barring those on the terror watch list from getting a gun and a national ban on the future sale of assault weapons.

“I’ve talked to a number of my Republican colleagues,” Blumenthal said. “I believe that they are heightened in awareness about the need to ban assault weapons and take other common sense measures like background checks for all firearm sales, a ban on straw purchases, illegal trafficking, mental health initiatives and school safety steps. I’m hopeful that we will act during this session and if not, the next session. This issue of gun violence ought to be on the mind and voices of voters and candidates during this election season.”

Esty, whose brother is gay, says the shooting was a hate crime.

“It was an attack on our freedoms…what we celebrate as Americans,” Esty said. “Our freedom to worship who and what we want and where we wish. To love whom we choose to love. This is part of what this clash is about. A radical ideology that attacks what we believe in in our core as Americans.”

Baker, whose brother is also gay, says there is no room for such hate in society.

Jim is WAMC’s Associate News Director and hosts WAMC's flagship news programs: Midday Magazine, Northeast Report and Northeast Report Late Edition. Email: jlevulis@wamc.org
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