Florida leaders address gun violence, 2024 election

(L-R) Florida Democratic Party Chair Nikki Fried, former state Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith, Orange County Democratic Chair Samuel Vilchez Santiago and Joy MCC Reverend Terri Steed Pierce. (Screenshot via Biden for President)

ORLANDO | Florida Democratic leaders reflected on gun violence and the forthcoming presidential election in a press conference June 8, just days before the eight-year mark of the Pulse tragedy.

Speakers included Florida Democratic Party Chair Nikki Fried and former state Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith, also a candidate for state Senate. They were joined by Orange County Democratic Chair Samuel Vilchez Santiago and Joy MCC Reverend Terri Steed Pierce, all of whom shared their thoughts on Pulse while highlighting the differences between Donald Trump and Joe Biden on gun safety and reform.

“Just this year, Republicans in the Florida Legislature tried to roll back overwhelmingly popular gun laws that make our families safer,” Fried said. “And for years now, [Gov. Ron DeSantis] has used the LGBTQ+ community as his punching bag, finding any excuse to demonize people for their gender or sexuality, all to score political points with Trump voters.

“So while we celebrate Pride Month, we also have a somber reminder of what we’ve lost and what needs to be changed so that all of us — gay and straight, transgender and cisgender, and everything in between — can live in peace. … That means reelecting Joe Biden and Kamala Harris this November, sending a clear message that we are going to keep fighting for the safety of our communities.”

The group noted the Biden-Harris administration is the first to pass a gun violence prevention law in the last 30 years. They also applauded the president’s steps to protect the country and the LGBTQ+ community from gun violence, calling attention to what his re-election campaign has characterized as Trump’s prioritization of the gun lobby.

“As we remember the 49 angels that were taken eight years ago, we also remember the strength of those who survived, the families impacted, and the enduring spirit of those who are no longer here,” said Guillermo Smith. “But we must also remember that our fight for equality and protecting our communities from gun violence is far from over.

“We have to stand together in the face of unprecedented attacks from the opponents of equality like Donald Trump and those who work against us and our right to live in a world that is free from gun violence,” he also noted. “Joe Biden knows that love wins, love always wins.”

Vilchez Santiago spoke next, noting he seeks to honor those who died at Pulse with action. He likened the desire to that of the Biden-Harris administration’s.

“We’ve seen the Biden-Harris administration utilize the fullest extent of its powers at the executive level to embrace and empower the LGBTQ community,” he noted. “Thanks to the Biden-Harris administration, we passed the first gun violence prevention law in the last three decades. They also created the first office of Gun Violence Prevention in the history of the White House … We have a clear choice to make in November, and we will stand with our allies to continue the progress we’ve made over the last four years.”

Steed Pierce closed. She said ahead of this year’s election “I am most moved by the beacon of hope President Biden has created for the LGBTQ+ community.

“His administration has championed landmark legislation [and] with each action, President Biden reaffirms his dedication to protecting the freedom of LGBTQ+ Americans to love who they love,” she said. “With each action Donald Trump takes, he is showing that he doesn’t care about us. He wants to roll back protections and erode our rights.”

“After the attacks on Pulse and Parkland, Florida came together and said ‘no more,’” Fried also shared. “We’ve learned painful lessons on what we have to do to keep our communities safe … I’m afraid that the Florida Republicans have already forgotten these lessons.”

The president’s re-election campaign also noted in a press release that in 2024, Florida has had the most mass shooting in the U.S. thus far. “Gun violence disproportionately affects LGBTQ+ communities, who often face increased risks of hate-motivated attacks,” they shared. “The Pulse massacre stands as a stark reminder of the deadly consequences of bigotry and easy access to firearms.”

More in News

See More