When Joaquin Oliver was 12, he wrote a letter to gun owners imploring them to support background check legislation to help prevent gun violence in America. When he was 17 he was shot and killed in a hallway outside his creative writing class at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.
Oliver’s parents, Manuel and Patricia, have since been on a mission to raise awareness and reduce the influence of the gun lobby. They founded the gun control advocacy organization Change the Ref and their latest initiative is perhaps the most powerful to date.
Manuel and Patricia Oliver’s son, Joaquin, was killed in the 2018 school massacre in Parkland, Florida.Courtesy of Change the Ref
On July 14, the Olivers took a mile-long convoy of 52 school buses – nicknamed The NRA Children’s Museum– to Ted Cruz’s offices in Houston, Texas, to deliver Joaquin’s letter.
The empty seats on 51 of the buses represent the more than 4,368 children in the United States that the organization claims would have been sitting there since 2020 had they not been killed by firearms. The main bus is filled with memorabilia of children killed in shootings – things like photos of the kids, the clothes they wore, or things they carried, like a Santa Clarita student’s Nickelodeon backpack , California, a scout belt from a student in Santa Fe, New Mexico, and a piece of construction paper art from a student in Newtown, Connecticut.
The reason buses have accounted for child gun deaths since 2020 is because, According to the CDCsince that year, firearms have overtaken car crashes to become the leading cause of death for children and adolescents aged 1 to 19 in the United States
This fact bears repeating. As of 2020, gun violence is the leading cause of child and adolescent death in America. More than car accidents. More than disease. It’s breathtaking.
And the reason for going to Ted Cruz first? Texas lawmakers lead the country in donations from the gun lobby, and among those lawmakers, Ted Cruz leads the pack.
The NRA Children’s Museum is meant to grab the attention of lawmakers.
Courtesy of Change the Ref
“To commemorate this horrific historic moment, we are showing American voters the toll these politicians have taken on the lives of our children with these all-too-real records,” Manuel Oliver said in a statement. ” And that’s just the beginning. We won’t stop with Senator Ted Cruz. To all the politicians who stood aside, took NRA money, and refused to listen to the people they represent: the museum is about to honor you next.
“We want to show, for the voters who keep these politicians in power, the consequences of these choices. We want voters to remember which politicians are in the NRA’s pocket when they go to the polls in November,” added Patricia Oliver. “We urge everyone to join us in our mission to fight for every innocent soul lost to gun violence and demand universal background checks on gun sales.”
Change the Ref demands that Senator Cruz immediately forfeit all future funding to the NRA and listen to the will of the people to enact legislation for universal background checks – common sense gun legislation that most of his voters, including those in his own party, support him. The Olivers hope their son’s letter will spark a realization that receiving political donations from armed lobbyists like the NRA is not worth the life of an innocent child.
Reasonable citizens everywhere share the same demand and the same hope.