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Relatives of mass shooting victims make emotional pleas for gun controls at DNC

By Eric DuVall
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Relatives of mass shooting victims make emotional pleas for gun controls at DNC
Christine Leinonen, mother of Orlando shooting victim Christopher "Drew" Leinonen, is joined onstage by her late son's friends, Brandon Wolf, left, and Jose Arraigada, as she addresses delegates during day three of the Democratic National Convention at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia on Wednesday. Leinonen was one of several relatives of victims killed in mass shootings who urged delegates Wednesday to fight for tougher gun control laws. Photo by Pat Benic/UPI | License Photo

PHILADELPHIA, July 27 (UPI) -- The mother of one of the 49 victims killed in the massacre at a gay nightclub in Orlando last month, and relatives of several other mass shooting victims, delivered emotional pleas to the Democratic convention Wednesday night for stricter gun control laws to prevent similar violence in the future.

Christine Leinonen, whose son Christopher and his boyfriend were among those killed in the Pulse nightclub on June 12, was accompanied on stage by two of her son's friends and wept as she recounted the haunting memorial ceremony for the victims.

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"It takes about five minutes for a church bell to ring 49 times," she said. "The weapon that murdered my son fired 30 rounds in one minute. An Orlando city commissioner pointed out the awful math. One minute to end so many lives, five minutes to ring a bell 49 times."

Leinonen, a former Florida state trooper, said she favors "common sense" gun reforms like the assault weapons ban that was in place when her son was born, but that expired in the 1990s and has not been renewed.

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"There were common sense laws when he was born" she said of the Bill Clinton-era ban. "Why couldn't there have been when he died?"

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Leinonen's address, which moved many delegates in attendance to tears, was followed a short time later Wednesday by a speech from Erica Smegielski, the daughter of the principal at Sandy Hook Elementary School, who was killed when a gunman opened fire and killed 20 children and six adults.

Smegielski said Hillary Clinton's position in favor of tougher gun control measures would help prevent future massacres from happening.

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"We don't need another Charleston or San Bernardino or Dallas," she said.

Smegielski said she's advocating for tougher gun laws "so that no other daughter ever has to say I would give every single day that I have left for just one more day with my mom."

Two survivors of the June 2015 shooting inside a black church in Charleston, S.C., also spoke, urging Americans to turn away fro the hate that fuels such attacks.

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"So much hate, too much. But as Scripture says, love never fails, so I choose love. And in this election I choose Hillary Clinton," Charleston survivor Polly Sheppard said.

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