Pulse victim's mom calls for 'common sense' gun rules

At DNC, Pulse victim's mom urges 'common sense' gun policies

A woman who lost her son in the Pulse nightclub shootings tearfully called for "common sense gun policy" in a speech before the Democratic National Convention on Wednesday night.

Christine Leinonen, mother of Pulse victim Christopher "Drew" Leinonen, appeared on stage with Pulse survivor Brandon Wolf and Drew's ex-boyfriend Jose Arriagada. They hugged her close as she left the stage.

"It takes about five minutes for a church bell to ring 49 times," she told the hushed delegates in Philadelphia, referring to the bells that rang at vigils in Orlando to honor her 32-year-old son, his boyfriend Juan Guerrero, 22, and 47 others killed in the June 12 massacre.

"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."

The Polk County woman was one of the first on the scene the morning of the shootings. She waited all day for word about her son, pleading with people in TV interviews for any information. But Drew Leinonen ended up being one of the last victims to be identified the next day.

During her brief speech Wednesday, she talked about when she was a Michigan State trooper and the hospital put her gun into a safe on the day she gave birth to Drew.

"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," Leinonen said. "But where was that common sense the day he died? I never want you to ask that question about your child. That's why I support Hillary Clinton."

Gun safety was a theme of Wednesday night's convention speakers as Leinonen was followed by Erica Smegielski, the daughter of Sandy Hook Elementary School principal Dawn Hochsprung, who was killed trying to protect her students in the 2012 Newtown shootings that killed 26.

Drew Leinonen earned bachelor's and master's degrees in psychology at the University of Central Florida and worked as a licensed mental health counselor. In high school, he started a gay-straight alliance and he recently won the Anne Frank Humanitarian Award for his work in the gay community.

He was an only child.

"As I used to tell him, 'You can't do better than perfect,'" his mother said.

slemongello@orlandosentinel.com

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