With moments of silence, shared embraces, many tears and heartfelt speeches, Democrats brought gun control into the spotlight at their convention in Philadelphia.
The Democratic National Convention is taking place at the Wells Fargo Center through July 28. Delegates assembled in the arena the first three nights heard from advocates of gun control.
They also heard from survivors of gun violence and relatives who lost sons, daughters, mothers, fathers and friends to gun violence in America.
U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy of Connecticut, who staged a filibuster earlier this summer to demand action on gun control, remembered the day he went to Sandy Hook Elementary School in his home state.
President Barack Obama also remembered that day.
As did Erica Smegielski. Her mother Dawn, a teacher and principal, was murdered in the massacre at the school.
“I’m here for those lives cut short, in a school, or a movie theater, in a church, at work, in their neighborhoods or homes — because those voices should never be silenced,” she said. “I am here alone — without my mother — while too many politicians cower behind the gun lobby instead of standing with American families.”
Former Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey talked about gun violence and what the proliferation of assault weapons means for citizens and the law enforcement officers who pledge to protect them.
“I’m here to say we need more than grieving,” Ramsey said. “To protect our law enforcement and to serve those heroes who have fallen, we need commonsense measures to reduce gun violence. Police need these commonsense measures. And a leader who will fight for them.”
Actress Angela Bassett spoke about the violence.
Director Lee Daniels spoke about the violence.
Felicia Sanders and Polly Sheppard, two of the three survivors of the mass shooting at Mother Emanuel Church in Charleston, South Carolina, spoke about gun violence and hate.
Sanders said, “My son’s last words were, ‘We mean you no harm.’ Tywanza. My hero. Two days later, I forgave the shooter who murdered him. Hate destroys those who harbor it, and I refused to let hate destroy me.
“Still, I have to ask: How was he able to purchase the gun he used to kill so many? After that fateful day, Hillary Clinton called on lawmakers to close the Charleston loophole. Because of that loophole, even though the shooter had an arrest record, when it didn’t surface and three days had passed, he could still buy that gun.”
Astronaut Mark Kelly spoke about his support for gun control reform, as did his wife, former U.S. Rep. Gabby Giffords, a survivor of a mass shooting.
Jesse Jackson addressed the issue.
And so did Christine Leinonen, the mother of Christopher “Drew” Leinonen, who was killed in the massacre at the Pulse gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, in June.
She stood at the podium with Brandon Wolf and Jose Arraigada, survivors of the shooting that took 49 lives and left 53 wounded.
At times during the emotional address, they helped keep her standing.
From the stage, Leinonen could look out at delegates, some of them draped waving U.S. flags, some draped in rainbow flags and many waving signs reading, “Love trumps hate.”
Leinonen said her son supported Hillary Clinton and that’s why she decided to speak at the convention.
She told delegates that at the time of her son’s birth, she was employed as a state trooper and she remembered that hospital staff stowed her off-duty gun in a safe as a precaution.
“I didn’t argue,” Leinonen said. “I know common sense gun policies save lives.”
“Where was that common sense the day he died?” the mother said, referring to the killing of her son by a gunman armed with an assault rifle.
All this was on July 27, the third night of the convention. Others spoke about gun violence and gun control on July 26 and July 25.
Delegates and Philadelphians, who sometimes waited in long lines for seats in the upper deck of the arena, responded with standing ovations and moments of silence.
“I think there’s a stark difference on this issue between Republicans and Democrats,” said Philadelphia convention-goer Jerome Rivera. “You saw last week Republicans encouraging people to go to their convention concealing and carrying. What did they have to be afraid of at their convention? Other gun-toting Republicans.”
At the podium
Remarks by Gabby Giffords to the Democratic National Convention on July 27:
Hello, fellow Democrats! What a crowd! It’s great to be here today. We have important work ahead of us. Work that will determine the future of our country. Are you ready? I’m ready.
I have a passion for helping people. I always have. So does Hillary Clinton. Hillary is tough. Hillary is courageous.She will fight to make our families safer. In the White House, she will stand up to the gun lobby. That’s why I’m voting for Hillary!
I know what hate and division can do to our communities. Let’s stand up for responsibility. Together we can make sure that respect, hard work, and progress win in November.
In Congress, I learned an important lesson: Strong women get things done! Let’s work together to make Hillary our president. I’m with Her! And I know you are too.
Speaking is difficult for me. But come January, I want to say these two words: “Madam President.”
At the podium
Remarks by Erica Smegielski to the DNC on July 27:
I shouldn’t be here tonight. I don’t want to be here tonight.
I should be home, like so many Americans watching on TV with my mother, as we nominate the first woman to be President of the United States.
But, my mom was murdered. So I’m here.
I’m here for the mothers and daughters who are planning weddings, so that you get to watch your daughter walk down the aisle.
I’m here for those lives cut short, in a school, or a movie theater, in a church, at work, in their neighborhoods or homes — because those voices should never be silenced.
I am here alone — without my mother — while too many politicians cower behind the gun lobby instead of standing with American families.
We don’t need another Charleston, or San Bernardino, or Dallas, or countless other acts of everyday gun violence that don’t make the headlines.
We don’t need our teachers or principals going to work in fear.
What we need is another mother who is willing to do what is right — whose bravery can live up in equal measure to my mom’s.
We need to elect Hillary Clinton as the 45th President of the United States of America so that no other daughter ever has to say: I would give every day I have left for just one more day with my mom.