If Joaquin Oliver was alive, he would be getting ready to cast the first vote of his life next month. Instead, Oliver’s parents have created an avatar of their son to promote a pro-gun control message ahead of the November elections. Oliver was one of 17 people killed in the attack on Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida on February 14th, 2018, and in the years since, Manuel and Patricia Oliver have been advocating for new gun laws that they say would have prevented the attack and kept their son alive.
In the new ad, a digitally recreated avatar of Oliver stands on a basketball court in the early evening twilight and encourages young voters to cast their vote for candidates who will back the kind of gun control laws that his parents are demanding.
In 2018, Joaquin Oliver was shot and killed in the Parkland school shooting.
His parents used AI to bring him back to tell people how voting can prevent these kinds of tragedies from happening to any more families.https://t.co/BpK4zZkkbi pic.twitter.com/4Zj70f7Oid
— Change the Ref (@ChangeTheRef) October 2, 2020
“I’ve been gone for two years and nothing has changed, bro. People are still getting killed by guns. What is that? Everyone knows it but they don’t do anything. I am tired of waiting for someone to fix it.”
“I’ll never get to choose the kind of world that I wanted to live in. So you’ve got to replace my vote,” Joaquin says in the video. “Vote for politicians who care more about people’s lives than the gun lobby’s money. Vote for people not getting shot, bro.”
The Oliver’s started a gun control organization called “Change The Ref” after their son’s murder, which (according to the group’s website) is dedicated to raising “awareness about mass shootings through strategic interventions that will reduce the influence of the NRA on the Federal level.” Change The Ref doesn’t seem to be advocating for any specific gun control law, but instead is hoping to elect pro-gun control candidates by encouraging young Americans to register to vote.
Unfortunately, the accused killer in the Parkland attack was empowered, not by the NRA and “corrupt politicians,” but by the failures of then-Broward C0unty Sheriff Scott Israel and officials in the Broward County schools, who, as the Sun-Sentinel newspaper has reported, repeatedly ignored warning signs and refused to take action in the months before the attack and even while the shooting was taking place.
The newspaper report says that a series of blunders, bad policies, sketchy training and poor leadership enabled a gunman to shoot 17 people to death at the high school on Feb. 14, 2018. The attack at the campus lasted 58 minutes and the Sun Sentinel’s investigation concludes that it was marked by no one taking charge, deputies dawdling, false information spreading, communications paralyzed and children stranded with nowhere to hide.
Even before the attack, the suspect (whose name I won’t use) was the subject of dozens of calls to police between 2008 and 2017. Two years before the shooting, an anonymous tipster warned the sheriff’s office that the teen had threatened to shoot up the school, and in September of 2016 two school counselors and a school resource officer recommended that he be committed for a mental evaluation, which never happened. In January of 2018, the FBI also received a call to its tip line identifying the student and providing information about his “desire to kill people, erratic behavior, and disturbing social media posts, as well as the potential of him conducting a school shooting.”
The information was never referred to the Miami field office of the FBI, and another opportunity to stop the suspect before the attack was wasted.
I understand the Oliver’s grief and anger over their son’s murder, and I get the idea of wanting to use his life and tragic death to work to ensure that others don’t have to deal with the same pain and anguish that they experience every day. The truth is, though, that it wasn’t the NRA, the Second Amendment, or pro-2A politicians who robbed Joaquin Oliver and 16 others of their lives. It was a disturbed young man who had raised many red flags that were ignored by bureaucrats, school officials, law enforcement, and those closest to him. The attack on Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School was preventable, but not through gun control. Instead, multiple human beings failed to follow procedures and use existing laws to deal with the suspect before he walked on to campus on Valentine’s Day with murder on his mind and evil in his heart.