Joaquin Oliver was one of 17 people who died in the Feb. 14 school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High school in Parkland, Fla. a year ago this week. His father Manuel Oliver has a creative approach to his activism for new gun laws, putting his son front and center in his work.
On a cold, snowy day in January, Manuel Oliver—equipped with a bullhorn and a sculpture of his son—stood outside the U.S. Capitol. He was joined by his wife and dozens of supporters to urge members of Congress to pass a law requiring universal background checks for gun purchases.
A visual artist, Oliver travels the country painting murals and using a 3D sculpture of Joaquin, whose family and friends called him “Guac.” Oliver also passes out masks of Joaquin’s face so people can protest on his behalf. He wants to let others know “that people like my son, a 17-year old, can lose their life in a second.”
As the first anniversary of the shooting arrives, Oliver told Education Week that some people believe his advocacy is part of a healing process. “It’s not,” he said, “It’s part of a mission. We’re here to raise the voices of every single victim of gun violence.”
The families of Parkland victims have taken a variety of positions on gun laws. Some, like Oliver, have joined youth activists from the city in supporting new restrictions on gun purchases and other regulations. Others have stayed out of the gun debate and focused instead on school safety regulations and accountability at the local level.
Related reading on school shootings and school safety:
- The Heartbreaking Work of Tracking School Shootings
- A Broken Trust: Inside the Rift Between Parkland and Its School District
- School Shootings in 2018: How Many and Where
A version of this news article first appeared in the Rules for Engagement blog.