ORLANDO, FL — After a gunman killed at least 50 and injured 53 more during a Pride celebration at an Orlando nightclub, AFT President Randi Weingarten, Orange County Classroom Teachers Association President-elect Wendy Doromal and Orange County Classroom Teachers Association administrator Dennis Kelly issued the following statements:
“I don’t know where to begin,” said AFT President Randi Weingarten. Fifty dead, many more wounded, in the worst mass shooting in American history. I am sick and heartbroken. I pray for the recovery of those who are wounded, and my heart goes out to the dead and their families and loved ones.
“While we wait for the details, we must find the courage to extend compassion to one another, not expand hate. Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and others are already trying to divide us by insinuating that the victims—because they are part of the LGBTQ community—deserved to die. Others have seized on the gunman’s name to promote hate against Muslims.
“The victims are not to blame. Our Muslim neighbors are not to blame. If we want to assign blame, let us look to the culture of radicalization and fear that creates hatred. Let us look to the outrageous laws that make it easier for gunmen to acquire assault rifles than it will be for members of the LGBTQ community to donate much-needed blood for the victims of this crime.
“The weapon used in Orlando is the same type of military-style assault rifle used by Adam Lanza when he murdered innocent children and educators at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. It is the same type of weapon used in San Bernardino, Calif. In Aurora, Colo. In Portland, Ore.
“People will say now is no time for politics. But politics—at its best—is a-bout leadership. Let us find the political courage to pass commonsense laws to make it harder to commit these crimes. And let us find the moral courage to use this tragedy to build bridges and open our hearts, not to build walls and further hatred.”
“I am heartbroken and shocked by the senseless tragedy that has occurred in our beautiful city,” said Wendy Doromal, President-elect of the Orange County Classroom Teachers Association. “Our hearts and prayers are with the victims, their families and all of Orlando. We must work together to promote peace and understanding and push for an end to the horrific violence in our nation. While the issue of gun violence must be addressed through policy change, we must remember that social justice does not occur merely through the enactment of law, but through education as well.”
“Now the burden of hate and horror has fallen on Orlando, and we agonize as we wait to hear about our members and friends,” said Dennis Kelly, administrator of the Orange County Classroom Teachers Association. “Even this close to ‘The Happiest Place on Earth,’ armed terror and relaxed gun laws stalk our community. We need to come together with respect, not divide in hate.”
The American Federation of Teachers is a union of 1.6 million professionals that champions fairness; democracy; economic opportunity; and high-quality public education, healthcare and public services for our students, their families and our communities. We are committed to advancing these principles through community engagement, organizing, collective bargaining and political activism, and especially through the work our members do.