A survivor of last year’s shooting rampage at a Florida nightclub, who still has two bullets lodged in his body, says he fully supports the Second Amendment and wishes some of the other victims had been armed to defend themselves that fateful night.
But Jeff Rodriguez says he favors restrictions on who can acquire guns, in his first public statements since the June 12 shooting.
“People assume that because of this I’m against guns,” Mr. Rodriguez said Wednesday during an event at the Center for American Progress. “That is not correct. I believe if myself or others had guns that night, I believe the outcome would have been very different.”
While Mr. Rodriguez said he believes in the right to bear arms, including handguns, he would demand more rigorous background checks and mental evaluations of potential gun buyers. He also said he remains adamantly against allowing the public to possess military-style weapons.
“We’re not trying to take guns from citizens,” he said. “We need to strike now and get aggressive as possible.”
Rep. Elizabeth Esty, Connecticut Democrat, also voiced support Wednesday for the Second Amendment during the Pulse Nightclub Shooting One Year Later event hosted by the Political Action Committee (PAC) Pride Fund to End Gun Violence and the Center for American Progress.
But Ms. Esty said that not just any citizen should be “packing heat.” She said stronger background checks are among the first steps in addressing gun violence against LGBTQ communities.
“This is a time where American democracy needs us. It’s not just about tolerance. It’s about acceptance and love and a celebration of this wonderful country,” Ms. Esty said.
In the year since the Pulse attack, the largest mass shooting in U.S. history that left 49 dead and 53 injured, Mr. Rodriguez has undergone eight surgeries, and he requires three more. Four bullets hit him in his neck, stomach and legs, and two remain within his body.
Mr. Rodriguez was 37 years old on the night of the shooting, when he and two friends attended the weekly Latin Night event at the gay nightclub Pulse in Orlando.
Pulse and other gay bars exist as safe spaces for the LGBTQ community “to be themselves,” said Jason Lindsay, founder and executive director of Pride Fund to End Gun Violence.
In the early hours of June 12, a gunman entered Pulse and began firing. Mr. Rodriguez was trapped in a bathroom, and he recalled feeling as if he couldn’t defend himself.
He credited his survival to his friend, the only medic in the bathroom, as well as the three-block distance between Pulse and the hospital. He bled for three hours during the ordeal.
Though he is aware some other survivors remain afraid to leave their homes, Mr. Rodriguez said he feels compelled to “act” and “do something.”
“We can’t let this keep happening,” he said. “One year later, Pulse has not ended for us.”