Springfield, MA – Gun safety organizations Change the Ref and Stop Handgun Violence today unveiled two new billboards, strategically placed near the headquarters of gun manufacturer Smith and Wesson, to mark what would have been the 21st birthday of Joaquin Oliver, who was killed by a shooter using a Smith and Wesson AR-15 in the 2018 Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida mass shooting.
Designed by artist Manuel Oliver, the father of the then-17- year-old Joaquin, the billboard features Joaquin’s face with the words “I can’t enjoy my first legal beer because a Florida teen was allowed to get his first legal AR-15.” The billboard will be on display at two locations near Smith and Wesson’s Springfield headquarters.
“My son was too young to enjoy a legal drink, but our weak system allowed his teenage killer to legally purchase a high-powered assault weapon,” said Manuel Oliver, father of Joaquin Oliver and cofounder of Change the Ref. “I work every day to expose the perverse outcomes of American gun laws. There is no reason that teens should be able to purchase firearms of any kind. I wanted to hang these billboards in Massachusetts because manufacturers in the state are responsible for making the weapon that was used to murder my son and 16 others at his school within minutes.”
“In Massachusetts, we’ve banned the sale of assault weapons,” said John Rosenthal, founder and president of Stop Handgun Violence. “However, those weapons are still manufactured in large quantities within our state to be sold elsewhere. Children, like Joaquin, deserve to reach adulthood and we and our elected officials must do everything we can to make sure they get to celebrate every birthday.”
“As a legislator, I have a duty to do everything I can to prevent gun violence,” said Senator Cynthia Creem of Newton. “That’s why I filed legislation to prohibit the manufacture of assault weapons in Massachusetts. Our actions must match our morals.”
“Manny and Patricia lost their beautiful son Joaquin to a gun that was made in Massachusetts, but could not have been sold in Massachusetts” said Representative Marjorie Decker of Cambridge. “We should all carry a burden of shame and accountability knowing that while our own laws would never tolerate the sale of these guns to private citizens, they have been complicit in allowing the manufacture of these weapons to be sold in other states. Sending our condolences to grieving families after tragedies occur is not enough. We have an opportunity to make sure that no parent grieves the loss of their child to weapons that are banned in our state but were allowed to be manufactured here.”
Visible from I-90 at the I-291 junction and at I-291 at exit 5 towards MA-20A West where they are likely to be viewed by thousands of motorists daily, the billboards will be on display through the end of August. They serve as a stark reminder to the public of the heartbreaking toll gun violence takes on American families and communities each day. Campaign sponsors hope the billboards also strike a chord at Smith and Wesson, which ships thousands of military style assault weapons for out of state sale to civilians annually.
Under the proposed legislation, the manufacturer of assault weapons for civilian use would be outlawed in Massachusetts – just as their sale within the state is currently.
Stop Handgun Violence (SHV) is a Massachusetts based non-profit organization committed to the prevention of gun violence through education, public awareness, effective law enforcement and common sense gun laws. SHV has been the lead advocate in Massachusetts for enactment of the most effective gun violence prevention laws and first in the nation consumer protection regulations. The organization does not seek to restrict Constitutional rights, but advocates only for common sense legislation that will help save lives. For more information, go to www.stophandgunviolence.org
Change the Ref- Change the Ref- CTR) Founded in the memory of their son Joaquin, who was one of the 17 victims of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Parkland, FL, Manuel and Patricia Oliver are committed to making sure that their son’s life and the lives of the other 16 victims are never forgotten and that real change takes place to prevent future tragedies like this from happening ever again. CTR Mission is to raise awareness about mass shootings through strategic urban art interventions that will reduce the influence of the NRA on the Federal level. For more information, go to.www.changetheref.org