Families of Victims of the Orlando, Charleston and Sandy Hook Shootings Tearfully Call for Stricter Gun Laws at DNC
Daughter of murdered Sandy Hook principal says of Hillary Clinton: 'She reminds me of my mom.'
Hillary Clinton has made gun violence a central issue in her presidential campaign – and on Wednesday night at the Democratic National Convention, four whose wounds and heartbreak are still raw took the stage at the Democratic National Convention to plead for stricter gun laws – and for Clinton’s election.
First was Christine Leinonen, the mother of Christopher “Drew” Leinonen, who was among the 49 victims of the recent massacre at an Orlando nightclub. As she spoke, her voice was wrenched with emotion and interrupted by steadying deep breaths. Holding her up on either side were Brandon Wolf and Jose Arraigada, two survivors of the shooting and friends of her son.
Leinonen spoke of her only child – and a “a big Hillary supporter” – and how he brought people together “all his life,” starting the gay straight alliance at his high school.
“Christopher’s paternal grandparents met at a Japanese internment camp, so it was in his DNA that love trumps hate,” she said.
Leinonen, a former Michigan state trooper, said that when she went into labor with Drew, the hospital put her gun in a safe.
“I didn t argue,” she said. “I know common sense gun policies save lives.”
“I m glad common sense gun policy was in place the day Christopher was born,” she said. “But where was that common sense the day he died?”
Leinonen walked off the stage to a standing ovation – as well as chants of “love trumps hate” and “Enough!”
Next up was Erica Smegielski, daughter of Dawn Hochsprung, the principal of Sandy Hook Elementary School, who was killed the Newtown massacre.
Smegielski reflected on the day of her mother’s death, telling convention-goers that she kept thinking “this isn’t real.”
It was after she saw her mother’s cause of death – multiple gunshot wounds – listed, that she came to a realization.
“I realized that my mom didn’t die,” she said. “My mom was murdered.”
Smegielski said she is supporting Clinton in November because of her views on gun control.
“No one is fighting harder to reform our gun laws than Hillary,” she said. “She reminds me of my mother.”
And like Leinonen, Smegielski spoke out against the gun lobby.
“I’m here alone, without my mother, because too many politicians cower behind the lobby.”
“What we need is another mother who is willing to do what’s right.”
Last came Felicia Sanders (introduced by actress Angela Bassett) who was in a prayer meeting at Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, S.C., last year and watched an intruder shoot dead her 26-year-old Tywanza Sanders along with eight others in the prayer group, took the stage with fellow survivor of that shooting, Polly Sheppard.
“My son’s last words were ‘We mean no harm,'” Sanders said. “Two days later, I forgave the shooter I refuse to let hate destroy me.”
Said Sheppard, “So much hate. Too much. But as Scripture says, Love never fails. I choose love.”