WASHINGTON, D.C. – Brandon Wolf, 30, was among the many clubgoers at Pulse nightclub on the night of June 12, 2016.
He was with his two best friends, Christopher "Drew" Leinonen and Juan Guerrero. Both were killed when a gunman opened fire on the gay nightclub, killing 49 and wounding more than 50 others.
"My best friends are not a statistic," Wolf told U.S. lawmakers Thursday morning. "They are empty seats at dinner tables."
Wolf spoke in front of the House Ways and Means Committee demanding stricter gun laws, and also for a ban on assault-style weapons in Florida. It was a first time a Pulse survivor spoke before Congress.
The mass shooting survivor said Congress has yet to take any action, while gun violence continues to take thousands of lives in the country.
Today, over 3 years after the tragedy, I became the first Pulse survivor to testify before Congress.— Brandon Wolf (@bjoewolf) September 19, 2019
And I will KEEP fighting until we get some change. pic.twitter.com/GfICsOEAd4
"Your Senate colleagues can pass universal background checks, to make sure that people shouldn't have guns don't get them," Wolf said.
Georgia Rep. John Lewis called Wolf brave and bold for speaking out about the issue.
"Hate is not consistent (with) the goodwill of our nation and as people," Lewis said. "The federal government should not be in the business of financing hate."
Wolf also asked for extreme risk protection orders and to close loopholes that let people convicted of hate crime misdemeanors have access to guns.
The House committee is hearing testimony from Wolf and others on Thursday to consider whether the federal government should be allowing organizations labeled as "hate groups" to have a tax-exempt status, and how rhetoric and materials promoted by these groups can affect mass shooting survivors and their communities, according to U.S. Rep. Stephanie Murphy, whose district includes the Pulse nightclub site, said in a news release.
Watch the full committee hearing below: