PARKLAND, Fla. – Fenway Park is 1,200 miles from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. But a new billboard near the iconic Boston ballpark carries a powerful message of gun control inspired by the violence that unfolded at the Florida high school.
It reads, "If I had attended high school in Massachusetts instead of Parkland Florida, I would likely be alive today."
Massachusetts bans the type of assault rifle that was used to murder 17 students, teachers and staff in the Florida high school shooting. Statistics from USA Today show Massachusetts suffers 3.4 gun deaths per 100,000 people, while Florida has 12.6 gun deaths per 100,000 people.
At a news conference Thursday in Boston, Joaquin's father Manuel Oliver and his mother Patricia Oliver said gun laws in Massachusetts are needed in Florida.
"It's too late for us to save our son, Joaquin, but it's still early for other parents to save their sons and daughters," Manuel said.
"We have to make a change and we cannot do that alone," said Patricia.
John Rosenthal, founder of the organization Stop Handgun Violence, said he believes tougher gun laws save lives.
"If every state replicates Massachusetts, we'll reduce the 37,000 gun deaths to a fraction," Rosenthal said.
The billboard, which The Associated Press reports was designed by Manuel, is prominent. Duringfor the 2018 World Series champion Boston Red Sox, Joaquin's image and message could be seen as the players rode by.
The Olivers said their son always wanted to be bigger than life. They said that in death — thanks to this billboard and its message — he is.
"He's right back sending a big statement to the nation," Manuel said. "We change this if we follow Joaquin's directions on that billboard."