After the shooting at Pulse in Orlando, Florida, I decided that I wanted to try to do something to show support that wouldn’t be an empty gesture. What I settled on was writing to Georgia’s senators and my district representative urging them to do more than just offer thoughts and prayers for the victims of yet another mass shooting.
My representative, Jody Hice, included an option on his website to request a response to my letter. I decided that I did want a response; even if the likeliest answer was a no, I’d at least know that my letter had been received and acknowledged.
A couple days ago I finally got the response from Hice’s office. I’m posting it in full below:
|July 1, 2016
Dear Mr. Jones:
|Thank you for contacting me regarding the recent terrorist attack in Orlando, Florida. As your Congressman, I appreciate hearing your thoughts and welcome every opportunity to be of service to you.
As you know, in the early hours of June 12, 2016, Omar Mateen, a licensed security guard for G4S Secure Solutions and a resident of Fort Pierce, Florida, entered the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida and began shooting patrons and taking hostages. Soon after 2 am, first responders began to arrive and help wounded outside the nightclub. At 2:22 am, Mateen made a call to 9-1-1 in which he expressed sympathy for the Tsarnaev brothers who were responsible for the Boston Marathon bombing. In his call, he stated that he was inspired by Mohammad Abu Salha, the 22 year old Floridian who became the first known American suicide bomber in Syria, and pledged his allegiance to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). At 5 am, Orange County Police Department Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) team drove an armored vehicle through a wall in order to gain entrance and stormed the building. Following a fire fight and the controlled detonation of a suspected bomb near Mateen, the police confirmed his death.
It was determined that some 50 individuals, including Mateen, were killed, and 53 others were wounded in the attack. The catastrophic loss of these fifty American souls marks the largest terror attack on our homeland since September 11, 2001. The nearly fifty sons, daughters, brothers, sisters, friends and colleagues whose lives were tragically cut short, will be forever honored by our Nation. As we mourn the fallen, and as the investigation of Mateen continues, it is imperative that we lift up the families of the innocent in prayer. It is for this reason that I joined my colleagues in the House in a moment of silence on June 13, 2016 to commemorate the lives of the fallen and wounded Americans and for their family members.
Though we do not have all of the answers, we do know that the motive of this attack stemmed from a hatred of the American people and our freedoms. The attacker sought to weaken our resolve as a people, but he failed. In the hours after the attack, hundreds of citizens lined the streets of a blood donation clinic, waiting in line for hours to donate blood to the wounded. Furthermore, several Orlando area restaurants opened their doors to serve food to the community, and several avenues of support were organized to help care for the family members left behind and to provide for unexpected funeral costs. Across the country, flags were flown at half-staff to honor our fellow citizens.
This attack is unfortunately just the latest example that terrorists will stop at nothing to import their extremist ideology and violence to our homeland. ISIL seeks to destroy the ideals of freedom and individual liberty for which we stand. As a Member of Congress, providing for the safety and security of the American people is my top priority. A successful national security strategy requires that we be prepared both at home and abroad. As we continue to mourn the loss of innocent victims in this senseless attack, I pray that we are united in putting an end to cowardly acts of terrorism across the world. Please be assured that I will keep your thoughts in mind should any additional legislation regarding the fight against ISIL come before the full House for a vote.
|Again, thank you for sharing your concerns. If you feel that I may be of additional assistance on this, or any other matter of importance to you, please do not hesitate to contact me. I also invite you to sign up for my weekly email newsletter or to share your ideas and opinions by visiting my website at http://hice.house.gov or emailing me at Rep.JodyHice@mail.house.gov.You may also follow me on Facebook, Twitter, @CongressmanHice, Instagram, and YouTube for live updates from Washington.|
Now, the main thrust of my original letter was about gun violence and the need for stronger regulation of firearms, particularly weapons with high capacity magazines like the semi-automatic AR-15 rifle and non-revolver handguns. There was a paragraph at the end addressing the Pulse shooting.
Naturally, I didn’t expect a personalized response. Someone in Hice’s office wrote a boilerplate statement about the shooting built around the preferred narrative of the Republican party that the shooter was a religiously motivated terrorist and attached Hice’s name to the bottom of it. This is clearly the statement that was issued to everyone who wrote to the Congressperson about the Pulse shooting.
Still, it strikes me as worth noting here that not once in this statement does Hice’s office acknowledge that the victims were members of the LGBTQIA community, and that they were predominantly Black and Latinx. In response to a constituent letter about gun violence, no mention is made of gun regulation as a possible avenue of addressing the problem, not even a comment about believing that gun regulation wouldn’t help.