The mile-long bus convoy makes a powerful statement.
When Joaquin Oliver was 12, he wrote a letter to gun owners imploring them to support background check legislation to help prevent gun violence in America. When he was 17, he was shot and killed in a hallway outside his creative writing class at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.
Oliver's parents, Manuel and Patricia, have been on a mission to raise awareness and reduce the influence of the gun lobby ever since. They founded the gun control advocacy organization Change the Ref and their latest initiative may be their most powerful yet.
Manuel and Patricia Oliver's son Joaquin was killed in the Parkland, Florida, school massacre in 2018.Courtesy of Change the Ref
On July 14, the Olivers took a mile-long convoy of 52 school buses—dubbed The NRA Children's Museum—to Ted Cruz's offices in Houston, Texas, to deliver Joaquin's letter to him.
The empty seats on 51 of the buses represent the more than 4,368 children in the United States that the organization claims would have sat in them since 2020 had they not been killed by guns. The leading bus is filled with memorabilia of children killed in shootings—things like photos of the children, the clothing they wore or things they carried, such as the Nickelodeon backpack of a student from Santa Clarita, California, a girl scout sash from a student in Santa Fe, New Mexico, and a piece of construction paper artwork from a student in Newtown, Connecticut.
The reason for the buses representing child gun deaths since 2020 is that, according to the CDC, since that year, firearms have overtaken car accidents to become the leading cause of death in children and teens ages 1 to 19 in the U.S.
That fact is worth repeating. Since 2020, gun violence has been the leading cause of death for children and teens in America. More than car accidents. More than disease. That's mind-blowing.
And the reason for heading to Ted Cruz first? Lawmakers in Texas lead the country in donations taken from the gun lobby, and among those lawmakers, Ted Cruz leads the pack.
The NRA Children's Museum is meant to get the attention of lawmakers.
Courtesy of Change the Ref
“To commemorate this horrific historic moment, we are showing American voters the toll these politicians have taken on our children's lives with this all-too-real archive,” Manuel Oliver said in a statement. “And this is only the beginning. We will not stop with Sen. Ted Cruz. To every politician who has stood by, taken NRA money, and refused to listen to the people they represent: the museum is on the way to honor you next.”
“We want to display, for the voters who keep these politicians in office, the consequences of those choices. We want voters to remember which politicians are in the pocket of the NRA when they visit the polls in November,” added Patricia Oliver. “We urge everyone to join us in our mission to fight for every innocent soul lost to gun violence and to demand universal background checks on gun sales.”
Change the Ref requests that Sen. Cruz immediately renounce all future funding from the NRA and listen to the people's will to enact legislation for universal background checks—commonsense gun legislation that most of his constituents, including those in his own party, support. The Olivers hope that their son's letter will spark a realization that receiving political donations from gun lobbyists like the NRA is not worth an innocent child's life.
Reasonable citizens everywhere share the same request and the same hope.