BOSTON (State House News Service) – Attorney General Maura Healey plans this weekend to visit Orlando, Florida where she will stump for Democrat Hillary Clinton, march in a Pride Parade and visit the site of a popular gay nightclub where there was a mass shooting in June.
Healey said she’s wanted to travel Orlando for some time and made arrangements to visit the club after she was invited to participate in Saturday’s parade at Lake Eola Park.
“This is a time in our country where we’ve seen a lot of division and derision and hate and we need to come together. To me this is an opportunity to do that and an opportunity to honor the LGBT community and to honor really all of those who fight for equality. I’ll be proud to march alongside them on Saturday,” Healey, the nation’s first openly gay attorney general, told the News Service on Wednesday.
Healey, who said she spoke with a mother of one of the shooting victims this summer, said she plans to meet with victims’ families and survivors while in Orlando, as well as first responders and members of law enforcement who responded to the shootings.
Forty-nine people were killed on June 12 when 29-year-old Omar Mateen entered the nightclub and opened fire. Mateen, who authorities say was armed with an assault-style rifle, later died in a gunfight with police. Massachusetts natives Stanley Almodovar III of Springfield and Kim Morris of Northampton were among those killed. Angel Colon, a native of Framingham and Jeffrey Rodriguez, a native of Leominster, were among the 53 people injured.
“Whether you’re from Massachusetts or whether you’re from Florida, I think that this is an event that so many people can relate to if you’re LGBT or if you have an LGBT loved one in your family or friend. I think so many were struck in a really deep way back in June when this happened and it’s why we need to have in place better approaches to deal with gun violence in this country,” said Healey.
Healey said the shooting “spurred” her to review Massachusetts’ gun laws. The review, she said, led to her decision in July to heighten enforcement of the state’s 1998 assault weapons ban with a focus on copy or duplicates of forbidden guns.
The crackdown sparked backlash and last month four Massachusetts gun retailers and the National Shooting Sports Foundation filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court arguing that Healey overstepped her legal authority and deprived firearms sellers of due process.
The attorney general has said she’s standing by her enforcement notice and reiterated that the sales of assault weapons in Massachusetts have “virtually stopped” since she issued her notice.
While in Orlando, Healey plans to attend and speak at several voter registration and canvas kickoff events on behalf of the campaign for Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton. The attorney general is scheduled to arrive in Florida Friday, returning on Saturday night.
A Healey aide told the News Service on Thursday morning that as she prepares for her trip she is monitoring Hurricane Matthew. The storm is closing in on the Florida coast as a Category 3 hurricane, forcing massive evacuations and likely to cause widespread power outages.