The crowd fell silent when Christine Leinonen, whose son, Christopher, was murdered during the Orlando shooting, took the stage at the DNC. Leinonen began her remarks by noting that it takes five minutes for a church bell to ring 49 times, the number of people killed in the Orlando massacre. She then went on to make a chillingly poignant comparison: “The weapon that murdered my son fires 30 rounds in one minute. One minute for a gun to fire so many shots, five minutes for a bell to honor so many lives.”
Along with Leinonen, Erica Smegielski, whose mother died in the Sandy Hook massacre, and survivors of the Charleston AME shooting also spoke. Actress Angela Bassett introduced the latter by naming each of the Charleston victims and asked, “We say their names, but that’s not enough is it?” The crowd answered with a resounding “No.” Arizona’s Gabrielle Giffords, who was shot in the head in 2011 during an assassination attempt, also spoke. Because of her injuries, Giffords has had to undergo speech therapy, but as she noted: “Speaking is difficult for me, but come January I want to say these two words: Madame President.”
The lineup of speakers indicates that the Democratic Party has come down firmly and unapologetically on the side of greater gun control, after many years of being reluctant to push the issue.