While Republican lawmakers plan gun law expansions, Orlando Democrats and reform advocates push for a ban on assault weapons


Siclaly Santiago-León wants lawmakers in Tallahassee to know about the worst day of her life. She wants them to know how she almost got arrested on June 12 as she tried to push past police officers to look for her cousin Luis Daniel Wilson-León and his partner, Jean Carlos Méndez Pérez, inside the gay nightclub Pulse.

If given the opportunity, she'd describe to them the desperation she felt as she waited with other families in a room near the hospital to hear updates on who survived the mass shooting; the anguished screams when they realized 49 of their loved ones, including Wilson-León and his partner, would not come home. And she'd tell them what it feels like to miss someone forever.

"I know he's gone, but I can't believe it happened. I can't," she says. "I still take it day by day, but the holidays were just so awful. I don't want anybody else to suffer or hurt the way we have, ever."

More than anything, Santiago-León says she wants Florida legislators to know she believes "Dani" was killed partly because of the state's minimal restrictions on gun purchases.

"I will not let my cousin's memory fade away," she says. "He died because of irresponsibility with our legislation. He died because of a violent act that shouldn't have happened. You can argue to pieces about whether it was this type of gun or that type of gun, but I don't care. I'm not going to let him have died without people knowing why."

Santiago-León and others directly affected by the Pulse massacre plan to testify at the Florida State Capitol in the coming months in support of a measure that would ban the sale and possession of assault weapons and large-capacity magazines. The bill includes a long list of specific assault-rifle models, including the Sig Sauer MCX rifle, which Omar Mateen used to kill 49 people and injure more than 53 at Pulse about seven months ago.

State Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith and Sen. Linda Stewart, both Orlando Democrats, filed their respective proposals in a Florida Legislature where it stands little chance of success. In this Legislature, the dominant Republican majority is more interested in bills to allow concealed-weapons licensees to openly carry handguns in public and to allow people to be armed on college campuses, in airport passenger terminals, and at government meetings and elementary and secondary schools.