Joaquin Oliver was 17 when he died in Parkland, Florida just over a year ago.
He was killed among 16 others killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School by a young man armed with an assault rifle made by a Massachusetts company: Smith & Wesson.
Now Oliver’s face shines from a billboard in the Back Bay along with a fictional quote: "If I had attended high school in Massachusetts instead of Parkland Florida, I would likely be alive today.”
The billboard was designed by Joaquin's father Manny Oliver, a Florida artist of Venezuelan descent. He brought a pop-up art display to Boston's South End on Sunday, at the end of a three-day youth summit on gun violence prevention.
"We are here now. We don’t know if we’re going to be here tomorrow because of gun violence, so that’s what we do — we create awareness about what needs to be done.”Manny Oliver
Oliver says it shouldn’t require losing your child in a shooting to support good sense gun policy.
“Certainly, we need to get a little more aggressive with stopping irresponsible people from purchasing guns," he said. "We are here now. We don’t know if we’re going to be here tomorrow because of gun violence, so that’s what we do — we create awareness about what needs to be done.”
High school students from around New England came to the weekend summit, hosted by the Boston University School of Public Health, as well as March for Our Lives: Boston and Stop Handgun Violence. They wrote to legislators in their states and participated in workshops on gun trafficking and gun laws.
“What happened?” Oliver said. "Why is it that we are allowing the gun lobby to keep on making money, and in exchange of that we keep on losing people? A hundred persons die per day in this country because of gun violence.”
Standing next to her 11-year-old daughter, Samantha McGarry, of Framingam, said it was the Sandy Hook shooting that caused her to become a gun control activist. McGarry is originally from England, and she says American gun culture continues to be a culture shock for her.
“I grew up around rifles, and guns always had to be stored correctly ... the police could come by and check at any point — and still coming here, culturally it’s so radically different I still can’t wrap my head around it, McGarry said.”
Gun violence prevention advocates are already preparing for their next somber anniversary — April 20, 20 years since the shooting at Columbine High School.
On Monday night at UMass Amherst, Manny Oliver was set to speak about his work in the wake of his son’s death.
This segment aired on March 18, 2019.