His wife—and only family—was killed in the El Paso shooting. Everyone's invited to her funeral.
More than 1,000 are expected to come.
Imagine having your only family member taken from you in an act of violence while shopping at Walmart.
When Margie Reckard was killed in the mass shooting in El Paso, Texas, 61-year-old Antonio Basco was left with no living relatives. Basco and Reckard had been married for 22 years.
"Me and my wife had a bond, a magnificent bond," Basco told CNN. "I never felt anything like that in my life." He said they had "a wonderful life" together.
Basco has spent every day since the shooting visiting a makeshift memorial for his wife outside of the Walmart where Reckard was shot and killed. He prays for her and talks to her. He even slept there one night.
"I can't stay away from here," Basco told CNN. "All I know is that my wife never hurt someone."
It's a heartbreaking story with a heartwarming twist. Basco has invited the public to his wife's funeral, and the supportive responses from fellow El Paso residents, as well as the rest of the country, have been overwhelming.
Perches Funeral Home posted a Facebook invitation to Reckard's funeral, and in two days it's already been shared 14,000 times. In fact, the response has been so great that the location of the funeral had to be changed to a bigger venue.
The funeral home has a capacity of 250, but at least 1,000 people are expected to come.
"We're getting calls constantly, every two or three minutes," Harrison Johnson, the funeral director at Perches Funeral Homes, told NPR. "It really surprised us." Dozens of people have already ordered flowers for the funeral as well.
People have joined Basco at his wife's Walmart memorial to offer their support. A local journalist, Carlos Armendáriz, even set up a GoFundMe page for Basco after taking his photo at the memorial and getting a strong response from people. "My intention was that people can help him as much as they can," Armendáriz told CNN.
"If it wasn't for all of these people, I don't know how I would make it," Basco said.
El Paso was rocked to its core by the mass shooting, by far the worst act of violence the peaceful community has seen. The gunman, who had penned a white supremacist manifesto explaining his motive, drove ten hours to the border city specifically to kill Mexican immigrants. Basco's wife was not his intended target, but hatred has a habit of harming indiscriminately.
The support that Basco is receiving is wonderful, and the way El Paso has come together in the wake of such a tragedy highlights the humanity that resides there. There is beauty in the response to this tragedy.
But it's a tragedy that never should have happened in the first place. Basco shouldn't be planning this funeral. I shouldn't be writing this article. Because the greatest country with the greatest economy that espouses the greatest freedoms and the greatest political system in the world should not be a country where people fear being shot to death while grocery shopping.
Or sitting in a movie theater.
Or attending a concert.
Or walking down a high school hallway.
Or practicing subtraction in a first-grade classroom.
In no other developed nation do children regularly rehearse what to do if a gunman enters their school. In no other developed nation do school custodians and secretaries have to learn what various kinds of bullet wounds look like in a child's body. In no other developed nation do citizens walk into a public place and immediately plan for what they'll do if someone comes in and starts shooting. That thought is rightfully horrific to people on the outside looking in.
Of course, mass shootings are not the primary sources of our gun violence rates. But the fact is that guns kill as many Americans as car accidents (in fact, more in 2017). Twice as many children died from gun violence in America as police officers and soldiers combined from 2013 to 2017. Toddlers shoot and kill more Americans than foreign-born terrorists.
We. Have. A. Problem.
RELATED: Twice as many American children die from gun violence as police officers and soldiers combined
Rather than do what every other developed nation has done—enact nationwide gun legislation that requires some combination of background checks, waiting periods, safe storage, limits on ammunition, and mandatory basic safety and usage training—to try to prevent the carnage, we rehearse for it. We accept the underlying fear and the sacrifice of children as the price we pay for America's gun obsession. We accept that a toddler pulling a gun out of his mom's purse and shooting her in the grocery store is just another manifestation of freedom. We accept a man losing his only family member in a mass shooting as the price we pay for an unreasonable attachment to and interpretation of an amendment written when guns couldn't shoot 36 people in under 30 seconds.
I hope that thousands show up to Marie Reckard's funeral to bear witness to the senseless loss of her life. I hope Antonio Basco feels uplifted by this outpouring of support from the masses. I hope the country they and millions of others whose lives have been impacted by gun violence call home finally decides that we've sacrificed enough Americans at the altar of gun rights.