Mother of UCF alumnus killed at Pulse makes gun control plea
Christine Leinonen, mother of late UCF alumnus Christopher "Drew" Leinonen, asked for common sense gun control and voiced her support for Hillary Clinton at the Democratic National Convention Wednesday night.
Christopher Leinonen, 32, was killed during the Pulse shooting on June 12. He was a licensed mental health counselor in two states and received his bachelor's and master's degrees in psychology from UCF.
Jordan Almazan, a 26-year-old UCF alumnus and close friend of Christopher Leinonen, described him as unpredictable, that expectations were never met with Christopher Leinonen, they were always exceeded.
“I think if everyone had a Drew with them,” he said, “They could just set aside all their expectations because with Drew, anything could happen.”
Leinonen walked onto the DNC stage flanked by Brandon Wolf and Jose Arraigada, two Pulse survivors and friends of her son.
"It takes about five minutes for a church bell to ring 49 times," Leinonen started. "I know this because last month, my son Christopher, his boyfriend Juan [Guerrero] and 47 others were murdered at a club in Orlando."
Christopher Leinonen was Christine Leinonen's only child. She said she used to tell him, "You can't do better than perfect."
"All his life, he brought people together," she said. "In high school, he won the Anne Frank Humanitarian award for starting the Gay-Straight Alliance."
His paternal grandparents met and fell in love in a Japanese internment camp, Leinonen said.
"So it was in his DNA that love always trumps hate," she said.
The crowd stood and cheered. Signs that read "Love Conquers Hate" waved as tears fell down the faces of attendees.
"Christopher was a big Hillary supporter; that's why I'm here. So I can tell you about the day he was born," Leinonen continued.
Leinonen was a Michigan state trooper when she gave birth to Christopher Leinonen and when she went into labor, the hospital put her off-duty gun into a safe, she said.
"I didn't argue," she said. "I know common sense gun policies save lives. The weapon that murdered my son fires 30 rounds in one minute. An Orlando City Commissioner pointed out the terrible math: one minute for a gun to fire so many shots, five minutes for a bell to honor so many lives.
"I'm glad common sense gun policies were in place the day Christopher was born, but where was that common sense the day he died?"
Leinonen said she never wants anyone to ask that question about their child, and that's why she supports Hillary Clinton.
Leinonen embraced Wolf and Arraigada before she walked off stage, her arms slung over their shoulders.
Alissa Smith is the News Editor for the Central Florida Future. Follow her on Twitter at @thealissasmith or email her at AlissaS@centralfloridafuture.com