President Obama to comfort Orlando, where heroes stepped up

Miami Herald Editorial Board

A make-shift memorial for shooting victims rests on Orange Avenue in Orlando.
A make-shift memorial for shooting victims rests on Orange Avenue in Orlando. TNS

When President Obama lands in Orlando on Thursday, he will find one of America’s happiest cities battered by a week of unspeakable tragedies.

But he won’t find a city on its knees. Residents have taken the blows by standing together. Orlando Strong.

In a few short days, death swept the city: the public murder of The Voice singer, Christina Grimmie, after a Friday performance; the unfathomable slaughter of 49 people at a nightclub; the horrific death of a 2-year-old boy snatched by an alligator on the grounds of a Disney World hotel.

From the deadliest tragedy, the slaughter at Pulse, heroes have risen.

From the police officers who tangled with the disturbed and determined gunman, Omar Mateen. Police say they were held back by his claims of another bomber and snipers outside the bar. They finally stormed in to stop him — and rescue traumatized survivors.

To the staff at nearby Orlando Regional Medical Center, where every single employee called or, on their own, showed up to work in the early hours to help handle the onslaught of victims. Trauma surgeons, doctors, nurses and technicians mobilized in minutes to care for shooting victims.

To surviving bar patrons who, still standing, helped the wounded in the hellhole Pulse nightclub became by Sunday morning. One of many, Norman Casiano, fighting for his life, stopped to comfort a wounded patron in his final moments. “Just look into my eyes,” Casiano told the severely injured man. “It will be OK.” Because of Casiano, the man did not die alone.

To those who stayed to help carry bodies out, and the passers-by who offered their pickup trucks to transport bleeding victims to the hospital.

To the Orlando residents who donated hundreds of pints of blood; and those who handed out water to those in line waiting to donate.

But when President Obama arrives in Orlando Thursday, what can he promise of substance to help end the scourge of terrorist-inspired gun violence — to say nothing of the scores of people shot to death across the country on any given day?

His hands are all but tied by the recalcitrant Republican Congress, held hostage by the NRA as much as Mateen held off frightened Pulse patrons. Despite his public tears over victims of so many mass shootings, Mr. Obama’s administration will likely end with no substantial solutions.

Stricter gun laws, of course, are one part of the answer, not to mention denying anyone on a terrorist watch list the ability to purchase weapons.

A filibuster was under way Wednesday by U.S. Rep. Chris Murphy, a Democrat from Connecticut, to pressure Republicans to keep suspected terrorists from buying firearms and requiring universal background checks.

Of course, Mateen had no criminal record, despite being accused of domestic abuse by an ex-wife. And though he came to the FBI’s attention at least twice, he was not deemed a terrorism threat. That AR-15 was practically his for the asking.

Still, Florida, indeed this nation, needs to put an end to the availability of such military-grade weapons, which would at least not add to the arsenals of such weapons already in citizens’ hands.

But the majority of lawmakers have shown no interest. Will their stance soften in light of Orlando? Will they have the good sense to even discuss it? It’s past time for them to come to the rescue, too.

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