We at the Center Against Domestic Violence are heartbroken by the tragic loss of life in Orlando, at Pulse Nightclub in the early hours of Sunday morning. This was an act of terrorism, hate, bigotry and power, perpetrated by a shooter with a past history of homophobia, ISIS sympathy, and domestic abuse.

Why anyone can still purchase and AR 15 – the weapon used to murder children at Sandy Hook – is a mystery. That someone with Omar Mateen’s history can purchase an assault rifle is shameful. If the AR 15, a “military grade weapon” is available for civilian use, should not that use be heavily regulated? Federal and Florida law both forbid the sale of firearms to domestic violence perpetrators; yet, Omar Mateen, a known perpetrator of domestic violence, on record as a homophobe and wanting to be a terrorist, was able to purchase this assault rifle.

And so 49 innocent people’s lives – plus Omar Mateen’s life have been cut short as a mass shooting once again rocks the nation. More than 50 other people are seriously wounded. Our nation has come so far – accepting marriage equality and putting job and educational protection in place for all people regardless of gender identity or sexual orientation. This is the month to celebrate those strides toward human equality. A month of Gay Pride. Now it is a month of mourning and head shaking over senseless hatred and destruction.

Policy change and stricter gun policy laws need to be instated, making it impossible for known abusers to purchase guns. The last three mass shooters in the United States were known domestic abusers.

The Orlando shooting could have happened anywhere, in any club across America. We can do better; we must do better, or the next time it could be our nieces, nephews, or grandchildren in that club. New York City will gather tonight to honor and pay respect to the victims of the horrific Orlando shooting. Please join us this evening.

Vigil in front of Stonewall Inn