Joe Biden has announced plans to turn Orlando’s Pulse nightclub into a national memorial on the fifth anniversary of the massacre at the LGBT nightspot.
Revealing the memorialization of the site of the shooting where 49 died, President Biden said Saturday: ‘In the coming days, I will sign a bill designating Pulse Nightclub as a national memorial, enshrining in law what has been true since that terrible day five years ago: Pulse Nightclub is hallowed ground.’
His statement, published on the White House website, also recalled Biden’s visit to the site with then-President Barack Obama while serving as vice president.
He said: ‘Five years ago today in Orlando in the middle of Pride Month, our nation suffered the deadliest attack affecting the LGBTQ+ community in American history, and at the time, the deadliest mass shooting by a single gunman.
‘Within minutes, the Pulse nightclub that had long been a place of acceptance and joy turned into a place of unspeakable pain and loss.
‘Forty-nine people were there celebrating Latin night were murdered, even more injured, and countless others scarred forever – the victims were family members, partners and friends, veterans and students, young, Black, Asian and Latino – our fellow Americans.
Joe Biden has announced plans to turn Pulse nightclub, pictured on Friday, into a national memorial
Biden is pictured visiting the Orlando club with then-President Barack Obama in 2016
‘A few days later, I traveled with President Obama to pay respects to them and their families, to thank the brave first responders and the community who found strength and compassion in each other, and to pledge that what happened would not be forgotten.
‘Over the years, I have stayed in touch with families of the victims and with the survivors who have turned their pain into purpose, and who remind us that we must do more than remember victims of gun violence and all of the survivors, family members, and friends left behind; we must act.’
The Pulse massacre was carried out by Omar Mateen, 29, who died in an ensuing shootout with police.
Afterwards, the killer’s dad Mir Seddique Mateen said his son had previously been infuriated by the sight of a gay couple kissing in a Miami supermarket.
Crime scene techs are pictured working at the club in the wake of the massacre, which left 49 dead – as well as gunman Omar Mateen
Mateen, pictured, carried out the massacre to avenge US airstrikes on ISIS-controlled Syria. He was killed in an ensuing stand-off with police
During Mateen’s trial, prosecutors said he had wanted to avenge US airstrikes on ISIS in Syria, and said he had googled ‘downtown Orlando nightclub.’
They suggested that the attack on Pulse was not motivated by anti-LGBT hatred.
The nightclub site has remained shuttered since the shooting, with victims’ loved-ones and families continuing to use it as a shrine to those killed. A museum commemorating the massacre it set to open there in 2022.
It was usurped as the United States’ worst gun massacre by the Las Vegas shooting in October 2017, when gunman Stephen Paddock killed 60 attending a country music festival before taking his own life.
Another 411 people were injured.
Biden went on to the dangers faced by transgender Americans – particularly black transgender women.
He said: ‘We must drive out hate and inequities that contribute to the epidemic of violence and murder against transgender women – especially transgender women of color.’
Campaign group Them says 27 transgender people have been murdered in the US so far this year.
Biden, pictured on Friday, also used his statement to call for increased gun control
And the president also called on the Senate to pass his Equality Act, which bans discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.
The Equality Act would prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity across all 50 states in areas including housing, services and work.
At present, 21 states have their own non-discrimination protections in place but the other 29 have only partial or inadequate protections.
Biden also used his announcement about Pulse to call for tighter gun control, with three mass shootings erupting across the US late on Friday, and into the early hours of Saturday.
He wants the Senate to take up legislation passed by the House that would strengthen background checks, ban assault weapons and high-capacity magazines.
Biden’s legislation – proposed in the wake of a March mass shooting at King Soopers supermarket in Boulder, Colorado, that killed 10, would establish red flag laws aimed at alerting cops to potential mass shooters.
And it would eliminate liability immunity currently enjoyed by gun manufacturers.
He spoke amid warnings of a summer of mass shootings across the US.
Savannah Police Chief Roy Minter Jr and Chuck Wexler, from the Police Executive Research Forum, said a recent explosion in the number of shootings appears to be a long term trend, rather than a blip.
Minter spoke after a man was killed and seven were injured in a mass shooting in Savannah on Friday night. Seven others were injured.
He said: ‘It’s very disturbing what we’re seeing across the country and the level of gun violence that we’re seeing across the country.
‘It’s disturbing and it’s senseless.’
Commenting on the wider trend – which saw a woman killed and nine injured in Chicago, and 14 shot and injured in Austin – both in the early hours of Saturday, Wexler said: ‘There was a hope this might simply be a statistical blip that would start to come down.
‘That hasn’t happened. And that’s what really makes chiefs worry that we may be entering a new period where we will see a reversal of 20 years of declines in these crimes.’