WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Chris Coons (D-Del.) issued the following extended statement following the tragedy that took place in Orlando, Florida this weekend.

“The atrocity that took place at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida, was more than a cowardly act of terrorism and a violent rampage of hate against our LGBTQ brothers and sisters – it was also an attack on our freedoms and our way life,” said Senator Coons. “From the brave first responders and law enforcement officers who rushed to the scene, to the hundreds of Floridians who lined up to donate blood following the shooting, tragedies like these often showcase the best and worst of humanity in the same heartbreaking moments.

“But yesterday’s shooting should force us to confront a number of unanswered questions. Regardless of this attacker’s intentions or background, Congress must act to prevent known or suspected terrorists from having the unfettered ability to purchase high-powered weaponry.

“We also must reject sentiments designed to stoke fear, division, and hatred. Calls to ban Muslims from entering the United States motivate the very forces that seek to do us harm. Instead, we must reach out to and partner with the American Muslim community to tear down walls and work together to achieve our shared goal of defeating the scourge of terrorism.

“Today, we mourn the lives taken from us too soon, and we pray that the families and friends grieving the loss of their loved ones will find strength and purpose in the days to come. But tragedies like these don’t just break our hearts – they also challenge our values. In response to yesterday’s atrocities, America’s message to the world must not be one of fear and isolation, as some have proposed. Instead, we must make it unmistakably clear to people of any faith or sexual orientation that even in the face of tragedy, we will stand and fight for openness, acceptance, and freedom.”