Orlando victim’s mom brings Democratic convention to tears

July 28, 2016 9:54 am
Christine Leinonen (C), mother of a victim of the Pulse nightclub attack in Florida, is joined by survivors Brandon Wolf (L) and Jose Arriagada at the Democratic convention © AFP / Saul Loeb

, Philadelphia, United States, Jul 28 – The mother of a man killed last month in a mass shooting at a Florida nightclub pleaded for stronger gun laws Wednesday in a moving address to the Democratic National Convention.

Christine Leinonen was among several speakers at this week’s confab to offer poignant and pointed remarks about gun violence, which has emerged as a prominent issue on the presidential campaign trail this year in the aftermath of several mass shootings.

But her four-minute speech left many delegates in tears, and earned a rousing response.

“It takes about five minutes for church bells to ring 49 times,” Leinonen told the convention, with two survivors of the shooting at her side holding her.

“I know this because last month, my son Christopher and his boyfriend Juan and 47 others were murdered at a club in Orlando,” she went on.

“Christopher was my only child.”

Americans have reeled from a string of shootings, including the Orlando massacre — the deadliest mass shooting in modern US history — which was carried out by a man authorities say was radicalized online.

People applaud as Christine Leinonen, the mother of a victim of the Pulse nightclub attack in Florida, addresses the Democratic convention in Philadelphia © AFP / Nicholas Kamm

In Dallas, Texas, five police officers were killed in a sniper-style attack, while three officers were gunned down in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton has pledged to strengthen gun safety laws including expanding background checks for all gun purchases.

Leinonen explained how her son’s paternal grandparents “fell in love in a Japanese internment camp.”

“It was in his DNA that love always trumps hate,” she said, as members of the audience rose to their feet and chanted “Love trumps hate.”

“I know common sense gun policies save lives,” Leinonen said, her voice breaking as she recalled how as a Michigan state trooper, she appreciated it when the hospital put her gun in a safe when she went into labor.

“I’m glad common sense gun policy was in place the day Christopher was born. But where was that common sense the day he died?” she added.

“I never want you to ask the question about your child. That is why I support Hillary Clinton.”

Former Arizona representative Gabby Giffords and husband and astronaut Mark Kelly join hands after addressing delegates at the Democratic convention in Philadelphia © AFP / Robyn Beck

Clinton, who was anointed on Tuesday as the Democratic presidential nominee, swiftly expressed her appreciation.

“Thank you, Christine. We’re all standing by your side,” she tweeted.

Clinton’s Republican White House rival Donald Trump has sought to paint Democrats as soft on crime and national security.

He has warned that Clinton wants to abolish the constitutional right to bear arms.

Former congresswoman Gabby Giffords, who was shot in the head in 2011 by a deranged gunman, took the stage minutes later.

Giffords, whose speech impairment is a result of her brain injury, hailed Clinton as “courageous,” saying she will “stand up to the gun lobby” when elected.

“Speaking is difficult for me,” Giffords said. “But come January, I want to say these two words: Madam president.”


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