NASW Statements on Orlando Mass Shooting


The nation awoke on June 12 to the worst case of a single person committing mass murder with a gun in its history.

A gunman killed 49 people and injured more than 50 at Pulse, an Orlando nightclub that serves a predominately LGBTQ clientele. Most of the victims were also Latino.

Compounding such a horrific loss of life is the fact the man who committed the murders may have been  motivated by a complex mix of ISIL-inspired terrorism, anger toward American culture, bigotry, homophobia and internalized self-hatred because he may have had gay tendencies. He also had legal access to assault weapons with high capacity magazines. All of this formed a lethal combination.

However, as disturbing as the Orlando massacre was, it was only one of 91 gun-related mass murders in 2016 alone (mass murder is defined as four or more victims including the gunman). Moreover, within the last 10 years, there have been 371 deaths from mass gun shootings. Overwhelmingly, the shooters’ weapons of choice were high-powered, semi-automatic assault guns and rifles.

As seen in the massive loss of life and injuries at the Orlando nightclub, such weapons are meant to inflict death or devastating wounds. Without easy access to assault weapons, it is unlikely the carnage of Orlando, Sandy Hook or Virginia Tech would have left so many dead and maimed.

This tragedy should be seen as both terrorism and a hate crime, just as the mass murder of nine black members of the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in South Carolina was a hate crime. All of which adds another dimension to developing strategies for greatly reducing mass shootings in the United States.

There are concrete steps that public officials and the public at large can take to reduce the frequency of such disasters:

1. As a country, we must recognize that mass shootings are only a fraction of gun violence in the United States and we must look at gun violence in its totality. More than 35,000 people die each year from guns from a range of incidents including suicides, inner-city violence and accidents. Children between the ages of 5 and 14 in the United States are also 17 times more likely to be murdered by firearms than children in other industrialized nations.

2. Federal, state and local officials must approach gun violence, including mass shootings, as a public health emergency similar to how we are reacting to the opioid/heroin crisis. Such a declaration would prompt a national mobilization to prevent gun violence and greatly reduce the number of victims of gun violence.

3. Embracing a public health approach to gun violence would also necessitate more research on the causes and population-based impact and result in recommendations for addressing the crisis.

4. The National Association of Social Workers (NASW) recommends Congress lift the ban that prevented the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) from initiating research on gun violence, and should authorize funding for such comprehensive studies.

5. Sensible gun laws must be implemented, especially those that restrict access to assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines.

6. The country must change the culture of hate that now proliferates in social media, radio and on cable television. The Orlando massacre was driven by hate just like the mass shooting at Emmanuel AME Church and the shooting of six Sikhs in Oak Creek, Wisconsin.

NASW offers its condolences to the family and friends of the victims and the survivors. We also empathize with the pain of members of the LGBTQ community, which has experienced yet another hate attack.  It is up to all Americans to stand up for an end to mass murders and all forms of gun violence. It is also up to all Americans to recognize that hate speech and intolerance are the precursors to hate crimes.

Social justice organizations must become proactive in advocating for sensible gun laws such as a ban on assault weapons and high capacity ammunition magazines, as well as strengthening background checks for gun purchasing. Organizations must also support Congress lifting the ban on CDC’s ability to conduct research on gun violence, and ensuring they have sufficient funds to carry out comprehensive research.

For more information on Gun Violence, please visit Doctors for America and the coalition to end the ban on CDC gun violence research. NASW is a member of this coalition. For more information on the nature of hate crimes please visit The Southern Poverty Law Center. And to learn more about NASW’s involvement with gun violence prevention contact NASW Social Justice and Human Rights Manager Mel Wilson at


The National Association of Social Workers – Florida Chapter (NASW-FL) is devastated by the attack on the Orlando night club.  This senseless act impacts the lives of all Americans.The blame for this tragic act will encompass terrorism, guns, mental health, hatred and isolation.

Teachings of dignity and worth of a person in our homes, schools, religious organizations and in laws passed by state legislatures, city and county commissions and school boards are critical for healthy people and healthy communities.

As professional social workers we are guided by the NASW Code of Ethics that tells us we must treat each person in a caring and respectful fashion mindful of individual differences. We agree not to practice, condone, facilitate or collaborate with any form of discrimination on the basis of race, ethnicity, national origin, color, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, age, marital status, political belief, religion, immigration status or mental physical disability.

You may ask where do we go from here, what do we do next? Moving forward NASW FL encourages communities to come together. Our ethical standards offer this path, to recognize the central importance of human relationships. We should seek to strengthen relationships among people in a purposeful effort to promote, restore, maintain, and enhance the well-being of individuals, families, organizations, communities and our country.

Jim Akin, ACSW
Executive Director
National Association of Social Workers – Florida Chapter


The Sexual Orientation Gender Identity and Expression (SOGIE) Collective, Coalition on Race, Diversity and Intersectionality (CRDI) and Latinx Social Work Collective of the NYC Chapter of the National Association of Social Workers joins in solidarity with the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer (LGBTQ) community as it mourns and honors the victims of the Orlando shooting at Pulse Nightclub, which claimed 49 lives and injured 50 others.

The chapter expresses sincere condolences to the families and loved ones of the victims and calls for the tragedy to be identified as what it is, a hate crime against the LGBTQ community. The erasure of the Latinx and LGBTQ community cannot continue and social workers are called now – more than ever – to take a stance against gun violence which claims the lives of so many in this country.

Last year, the National Association of Social Workers released recommendations on addressing racism, gun violence and mental illness and they can be found here: The NYC Chapter echoes these recommendations and the call for chapters and social workers to organize in an intentional manner to stop the violence, particularly violence aimed at those most vulnerable: LGBTQ communities of color.

The NYC Chapter joins with other organizations and groups in expressing that tragedies of violence cannot be alleviated by more violence. Attempts have been and will be made by political interest groups to promote Islamophobia. These efforts perpetuate violence targeted at the Muslim community and should not be sanctioned by those who are called to protect the inherent worth and dignity of peoples.

In addition, attention must be paid to the role of mass media and its responsibility in condemning further violence against LGBTQ and communities of color rather than perpetuating it. At such a painful and traumatizing time, communities need to remain unified and committed to the prevention of more violence. Social workers can use the tools and resources of the profession to address gun violence in their respective localities and municipalities. Please refer to the article, “An Easy Guide to Contacting Your Elected Representatives About Gun Control” by Nicole Silverberg, which can be found at:

Finally, and very importantly, we ask that you all take care of yourselves during this time. Violence targets us differently and it affects us all. We encourage you to reach out to colleagues, be kind and patient with yourselves and one another. This is a very delicate time. We remain committed to empowering social workers to create change in the world.

*Latinx, pronounced “La-teen-ex,” includes the numerous people of Latin American descent whose gender identities fluctuate along different points of the spectrum.

Sandy Bernabei, President
Candida Brooks-Harrison, President-Elect
Brian Romero, Chair of SOGIE Collective
Executive Committee
Robert Schachter, Executive Director


The tragic mass murder in Orlando challenges us to lead efforts to make our communities more tolerant and safer for all its residents.

The LGBTQ community has had a long unending history of experiencing violence, harassment, and bigotry in our country and world.  Although mutch progress has been made, homophobia runs deep, as evidenced by the murderer’s expressions.

It is incumbent on all of us who are heterosexual to act in solidarity at all times with the LGBTQ community and speak out against homophobia whenever we hear it expressed.  We also need to be sensitive to the psychological trauma an event of this magnitude can have on the LGBTQ community.

While one of the presidential candidates continues to stoke anger and resentment against people of the Muslim faith, these expressions are the antithesis of who we are as a people and of course counter to core principles of our social work profession.  Those of us who are not of the Muslim faith need to speak out forcefully against Islamophobia wherever it takes place.

This same presidential candidate has made similar negative comments about people of Mexican origin, which has resulted in anti-Mexican chants shouted in public school events.  We as social workers need to speak out strongly against any public expressions of hatred or prejudice no matter who the target.

As social workers we understand the impact of public policies on our environment.  If we had stricter gun safety laws banning the purchase of assault weapons and banning the purchase of guns for anyone who is or has been on a FBI watch list, the Orlando tragedy and many other mass killings in this country may not have occurred.

Furthermore  gun deaths in this country could be controlled by requiring background checks at gun shows and for internet purchases and particularly by  “smart guns” that can only be operated by the adult purchaser, thus eliminating child accidents, the use of stolen guns and many teen suicides.

Our world and communities are full of challenges and we cannot expect to be able to control or stop all acts of violence and hatred that exists.  .However we can speak out strongly against bad public policies and hurtful and prejudicial political expressions.   Each of us as social workers, community members and world citizens can do our part to make the world and our community a little more tolerant and a little safer.

Marc Herstad, MSW, CISW
Executive Director
NASW Wisconsin Chapter


The Arizona Chapter of the National Association of Social Workers condemns the horrific violence of the massacre in Orlando, Florida. As President Obama said, this is an act of terror and hatred. We grieve with the victims, their families, the community of Orlando and our society.

We stand in solidarity with our sisters and brothers in the LGBTQ community and offer our support and help through many agencies and practitioners of healing during this difficult time of grief and loss and fear. Horrendous incidents like this leave many victims beyond those murdered. Many must live with dreadful lifelong injuries. Many families will grieve and find ways to reconcile such terrible violence and loss in the lives of loved family members.

Love and justice and solidarity in community will always trump hate and violence, but incidents like this challenge us all to stand together rather than retreat from each other in fear and more violence or vengeance.

Our society also must finally come to terms with itself and confront the violence in our culture and find ways to treat each other with tolerance and dignity while providing for the safety and security of all. Instigating more violence and avoiding gun regulation are not solving our need for freedom and security. Clearly what we are doing is not achieving that goal.

Local NASW AZ President Timothy Schmaltz said:

“We believe it is long past time for a new national and local dialogue on gun regulation where majority of our fellow citizens support universal background checks, limitations on the purchase of assault weapons and high volumes of ammunition, and other reasonable measures to curb future gun violence. Clearly we need to invest much more in mental health outreach and gun control. Many have said before this incident that “enough is enough” meaning that these incidents must stop with changes in our public policy and public culture.”

As social workers, we stand ready to contribute to a society where love and justice prevail. Our work and focus will continue to build a culture where all are treated with dignity, all live in safety, and all people have the basic necessities of life.

Jeremy Arp, MSW, ACSW
Executive Director
NASW Arizona Chapter



  1. Terrorism folks, it’s NOT all about gun violence.

  2. I guess someone missed the opportunity to do an intervention in the life of the assailant. It was also missed in Turkey, and guns were not used. It seems the issues of hate and fear are in play here and social workers are in a unique place to address those base causal factors that promote violence by any means. I think we are best served as professionals if we stay clear of the political agendas as much as possible and focus on our healing skills with individuals It seems that today, more so than at any other time, political agendas are polarizing and detract from our abilities to work at the individual level to address this world problem. Keeping and sustaining our ethics and desire to improve the human condition begins with the relationship between two people – which is a base of our profession. Also, i always worry about tinkering with the Constitution adn the Bill of Rights. My thought is that if we start down that path, much could be changed that we probably would not want changed. I mean, if change the 2nd, why not any of the others. Not sure that is a good thing.

  3. Not sure that limiting guns is going to do the trick here. They used bombs in Istanbul. Also, the definition of “limiting” is very poorly defined in culture and the very real issue of the 2nd Amendment. I think that addressing hate is very important as addressing fear. If we social workers could focus on helping individuals feel better and not align to political agendas i feel we would be more effective.

  4. Servant of Christ

    From the core of who we are as humans, we were created to love and live in unity with one another. However, sadly, somehow we complicated things along the way. As we continue on, and move further away from our intended purpose, countless precious souls fall victim to wicked and violent acts of hate. It’s deeply saddening. We must grow tired of this as a nation- one loving soul to the next. Too many souls are falling away (brutally and tragically), from every walk of life. We need to recommit ourselves to getting back to the basics: loving Jesus; following Him; and loving one another. If we merely focused on these few things our very souls, lives and nations will begin to heal. We must realize that despite our best efforts, we still fall short and need to connect to something much higher than ourselves. The bible says, “if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land (2 Chronicles 7:14). Thus, our efforts (as eager-hearted social workers ready to help and serve), equipped with the power of Jesus Christ can do more than change lives; it can literally save souls. Lets continue to do all that we can to tear down the strong wall of evil. Let us also pray for the families and friends of these precious victimized souls. Peace and love. #prayerchanges #teamsocialwork #allsoulsmatter

  5. Lorenzo R. Wright

    It is a travesty that Congress will not lift the ban that is preventing the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) from initiating research on gun violence, and should authorize funding for such comprehensive studies. Gun violence should be unequivocally viewed as a public health problem. My heart goes out to the victims of this senseless act of hate and selfishness. Total disregard for people’s lives is unfathomable to me.

  6. Samantha Martinez

    As a student member of NASW, I am glad that the association and other local chapters made statements about the Orlando shooting and how as social workers, it is our duty, it is part of our social work ethics, to stand up and speak out against the hatred and bigotry and violence inflicted upon the most disenfranchised members of our communities.

    I want to make a clear statement, that besides NASW focusing on pushing for stricter gun laws, and for speaking out against hate crimes, which I feel this was, let it be clear that social workers who are policymakers, who work in advocacy roles…when speaking about this tragedy, let us not erase who in fact were the victims. These were LGBT Latino/as/Latinx, that about half of the killed were Puerto Ricans and that they were in Orlando because Puerto Rico is in an economic crisis AND that it is NOT SAFE for LGBT Puerto Ricans on the island. Murders of queer people go untold in Puerto Rico, so I sit here to remind social workers that the hatred this killer exposed was complex in nature–whether it be that he was radicalized, it doesn’t matter. He chose Queer Latinos perhaps because as some speculate he was gay himself and had a lot of hatred of himself. He chose Queer Latinos because Latinos in this country are seen as other and less than, that politicians paint all Latinos as illegal and not American. Let us not forget that Puerto Ricans are American by birth. Let us not forget that some of these who were killed were undocumented, as well as those who were wounded. Now they are in limbo, because not only are they undocumented, but this is a federal case, and now they are exposed to federal laws that may deport them back to countries they were fleeing perhaps because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

    Yes, we must have stricter gun laws, but we must also fight the continued state sanctioned oppression of Queer Latinx and other queer people of color. Let us fight all the laws that seek to diminish the lives of Queer people to second class status, and not just bathroom laws, but laws that affect our reproductive rights, our rights in the workplace, our rights to housing, and our rights to be who we are.

    I am proud to have chosen the social work profession and I hope social workers will follow through with our social work values and ethics and work in advocacy and policy making to remedy the social problems of so many people.

  7. I am very proud to be a social worker and abide by the ethics of my profession. Let us lobby to prevent the purchase of assault weapons and to enforce much tighter gun control and above all, end hate crimes and judgement against others.

  8. Kentucky social worker that is proud of my profession and our Code of Ethics! Thoughts and prayers for the entire Orlando community!

  9. Rasheed Giles,MSW, MA

    God bless from New Jersey

  10. New Jersey social worker here sending prayers to all. May we all be guided by the code of ethics of social work to make this world a peaceful better place.

  11. The Canadian Association of Social Workers is in solidarity with our colleagues from NASW and the citizens of Orlando and all of North America as we encourage everyone to denounce this hateful barbaric act by calling for the respect of human dignity and the worth of all people of all races, , religion,colour, gender or sexual orientations.
    Morel Caissie.

    • This SW here in the States appreciates the solidarity. We in the US are held captive by the NRA and its sponsors in our Congress. It is helplessly absurd. Our gun laws are so obviously ineffective that this latest killer who had an extensive history of bizarre and abusive behavior that graduated to loyalty to ISIS, was actually granted a license to purchase weapons and ammunition. It is very difficult to deal with. Thank you for your thoughts.

  12. Thank you, Jim and NASW, for posting this heartfelt statement.

  13. Donna Sarvela ASW, LAADC

    Spot on. Thank you.

  14. I live an Hour away from Orlando, and my heart is still aching from the events of Sunday Morning. It is times like this that I am reminded why I am now pursuing a degree in Social Work as a way to help prevent these horrors.

    My heart goes out to all who have been affected by this event, and I know through love and hope we shall make it through this together.

    MSW Student

    • Philip,

      Kudos to you for pursuing your Social Work degree. Love will always win over hate. Please continue to pursue your career with this level of love in your heart. This love will help all of us heal from this horrible event.

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