By Brandon Wolf
Dear Gov. Scott and the GOP: Our patience has come to an end.
Almost two years ago, I witnessed hell. Standing in a dark bathroom at Pulse nightclub in Orlando, I choked down tears, held onto a dozen trembling bodies, and breathed gun smoke. We were unarmed and unassuming; we were under attack.
Forty-nine innocent lives were lost that night. And as the dust settled, we buried our loved ones and our grief turned to anger. “Never again!” we said. We demanded action. Begged for reform. Screamed for justice. And, like so many times before, we were met with deafening silence and a refusal to act.
Let me put it plainly: Republicans and their cowardice have failed us. At every turn, folks like Gov. Rick Scott and Sen. Marco Rubio have chosen to bankroll their campaigns rather than do their jobs. In the 2016 election cycle, the gun lobby dumped more money — over $6 million — into candidates’ campaigns in a single year than it had since 1990.
The National Rifle Association is drowning our political structure, and these GOP lapdogs are happy to soak it up. Why? Because in America, money talks. Politicians spout tired talking points while scooping up every dollar from their highest bidders. They’ll send you “thoughts and prayers,” and then use you as a stepladder for re-election.
Scott and Rubio will tell you they’re on your side, and then they don’t deliver. In 2016, my Orlando community learned the hard way: Change is being held hostage.
Now we find ourselves mourning again. Last week, 17 innocent lives were snuffed out by an assault rifle in the hands of a teenager. Fourteen of the victims were children. And can you guess the proposed remedy? If you said, “thoughts and prayers,” you are correct. Once again, staring down a preventable tragedy and a media firestorm, Scott and his spineless colleagues offer up empty words and predictable inaction. Where were stronger background checks after Pulse? Where were bump-stock bans after Las Vegas? Where did the outrage go after Sandy Hook?
The choice for our GOP leadership is simple: Do your job, or get out of our way. Victims are done negotiating. Americans are done dying. And our children are done being your sacrifices to the gun lobby. The NRA’s bankrolling of the Republican Party has turned our streets — our schools — into a war zone. And it is high time you put a stop to it.
On June 12, 2016, I told myself we would be the last. I watched 49 names scroll across the television screen and promised them that their deaths would not be in vain. Now, fewer than two years removed, Republican leaders have not strengthened our gun laws or provided more funding for mental-health care. In fact, they’ve worked every day to roll back regulations and make it easier to purchase assault-style weapons in Florida.
It is our turn to act. The Parkland survivors have shown us that strength and courage are the blueprint for change.
Dear GOP: Our patience has come to an end. Fix this nightmare, or start writing your concession speeches.
Brandon Wolf survived the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando on June 12, 2016, only to lose two of his best friends. He serves on the board of advisers of the Pride Fund to End Gun Violence. He moved from Orlando to Tallahassee in March 2017.