When Orlando resident Dylan Wolstencroft heard about the shooting this past weekend at a local gay club, he started a petition asking Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer to enact stricter weapons legislation. Dylan was kind enough to take the time to speak with us about his petition and why he can’t accept that “this is just how things are.”
Kate: Where were you when you heard about the shooting?
Dylan: Early Sunday morning, I received a panicked series of text messages and a phone call from my mother, who lives on the other side of the country. I was completely asleep at the time, but my mom saw the news and was afraid that I had been involved. It was jarring to be woken up to a headline describing an attack in what was essentially my own backyard.
Kate: What was your first thought?
Dylan: Disbelief, more than anything. It didn’t even feel real. I don’t think I could even form a coherent thought. Once the initial shock wore off, the only question I had was, “Why? Why here? Why now?” I still don’t really know if I have an answer.
Kate: Have you been to Pulse before? If so, what does it feel like to know its place in history now given it is a place that you’re familiar with?
Dylan: Pulse is a place which prides itself on community and acceptance. It is one of the few places that many people in the LGBT community previously felt safe in Orlando. It provided a safe haven for those who needed somewhere to relax and express themselves in an environment where they could feel loved and supported. The fact that Pulse will now be home to memories of violence, hatred, and intolerance means that yet another safe space for thousands of people who desperately need it is nothing short of a tragedy. It is truly heartbreaking.
Kate: Why did you decide to start a petition?
Dylan: I have watched hundreds and hundreds of innocent lives taken far before their time because of gun violence. Every few months, another tragedy like this takes place, and we always have the same reaction: “Oh, what a shame. Somebody should do something about it.”
Unfortunately, I did know one of the victims. Luis Vielma worked at Universal Studios in the brief period of time that I worked there as well. I only interacted with him a handful of times, but it was enough to know that he was a good guy.
Now that this senseless violence has taken the lives of people I know, I am so, so angry, and I’m tired of waiting. I’m tired of waiting for somebody else to find a solution to something that every American knows is a problem. A single petition won’t change the world, but it’s a place to start.
Kate: Have you started a petition before?
Dylan: This is the first petition I have started. I have added my name to dozens of causes in the past, and was always happy to see when it made even a small amount of change for good.
Kate: Why is it important to you that your petition wins?
Dylan: I never want to wake up to a frantic phone call from my mom making sure I’m alive again.
Kate: In your opinion, what is the worst thing that will happen if stricter gun legislation is not enacted?
Dylan: We will continue to see the same cycle, and it will only get worse. Every few months, there will be another attack, and we will be devastated. We will pray for change, and none will come. We’ll see the same narrative: “This is a tragedy, but it’s just an isolated incident. Why should we blame guns for the actions of one crazy individual?” And the issue will shrink from our minds until the next attack happens.
The cycle needs to change. What we’ve been doing isn’t working. We can’t keep beating our heads against the wall and looking for an answer which is right in front of us: we need better gun legislation. There’s nothing complicated about it.
Kate: What is your greatest hope for enacting stricter gun legislation in Orlando?
Dylan: Orlando is a big city, but it's a small fish in the big pond that is America. My hope is that by enacting stricter gun legislation in Orlando, other parts of the country will see that there is a better way to fix the problem we’re facing. Orlando is small, but it can have a big impact on America as a whole with comprehensive weapon reform.
Kate: Some cities have implemented a ban on semiautomatic “assault” weapons, do you think there is enough momentum to have Orlando do the same?
Dylan: I strongly believe that high-powered rifles and other semiautomatic assault weapons are completely inappropriate in Orlando, and frankly, anywhere else in the nation as well. I feel that after this attack, other people will start to feel the same. People are angry and they’re tired of being told that “this is just how things are.” Change is exponential, and I believe that this terrible event is the tipping point.