Mother of Orlando Shooting Victim Makes Emotional Plea at DNC

ABC News(PHILADELPHIA) -- The mother of one of the victims of the Orlando nightclub shooting made an emotional plea from the stage of the Democratic National Convention as she called for commonsense gun policies.

Christine Leinonen, mother of Christopher Leinonen, told how her son and his boyfriend were among the 49 victims of the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history.

She recalled that when Christopher was born, she was a Michigan state trooper and the hospital put her gun away as she prepared to give birth.

“When I went into labor, the hospital put my off-duty gun in a safe. I didn't argue," she said. "I know commonsense gun policies save lives.”

“I'm glad commonsense gun policy was in place the day Christopher was born," Leinonen said. "But where was that common sense the day he died?”

Leinonen told how her son was an award-winning humanitarian who had started a gay-straight alliance at his high school.

“Christopher's paternal grandparents met and fell in love in a Japanese internment camp. So, it was in his DNA that love always trumps hate,” she said.

Leinonen spoke to ABC News in the hours that immediately followed the Orlando shooting, when at the time she did not know the fate of her son.

"Please, let's all just get along," Leinonen said while gasping for breath. "We're on this earth for such a short time. Let's try to get rid of the hatred and the violence, please!"

Among others who gave emotional testimonies on gun violence were former Arizona Congresswoman Gabby Giffords, who was shot in the head in 2011 and survived, and Erica Smegielski, daughter of the Sandy Hook Elementary School principal, Dawn Hochsprung, who was killed in a mass shooting at the Newtown, Connecticut, school in 2012.

Giffords spoke briefly, calling for the election of Hillary Clinton because "in Congress, I learned a powerful lesson: Strong women get things done."

"Speaking is difficult for me," Giffords said. "But come January I want to say these two words: Madam President."

Both Giffords and Smegielski campaigned for Clinton ahead of the convention, and Smegielski said that one reason she feels passionately about Clinton's bid is because the candidate reminds her of her mother.

"What we need is another mother who is willing to do what's right, whose bravery can live up in equal measure to my mom's," Smegielski told the assembled delegates tonight. "What we need is to elect Hillary Clinton as the 45th president of the United States of America so that no other daughter ever has to say, 'I would give every single day that I have left for just one more day with my mom.'"

Copyright © 2016, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

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Celebrities, politicians post tributes to comedian, activist Dick Gregory

Celebrities, politicians post tributes to comedian, activist Dick GregoryBrent N. Clarke/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- The death of comedian and activist Dick Gregory at age 84 on Saturday prompted a flood of tributes on Twitter from celebrities, activists and others.

Jane Sanders recalled how her husband -- Bernie Sanders, Democratic senator from Vermont and former presidential candidate -- once spent a night in jail with Gregory after protesting segregation in Chicago.

RIP Dick Gregory, a good & brave man. He & @SenSanders spent the night in jail together for protesting Chicago segregated schools in the 60s https://t.co/pYpMU34eOx

— Jane O'Meara Sanders (@janeosanders) August 20, 2017

Democratic National Committee vice chairman Keith Ellison posted a photo of himself with Gregory. "Thank you for giving yourself to all of us," he wrote.

Dick Gregory, may God Bless you and Keep you. Thank you for giving yourself to all of us. pic.twitter.com/Z1dLIvYuBn

— Rep. Keith Ellison (@keithellison) August 20, 2017

Activist and writer Shaun King posted pictures of Gregory as a young man. "Rest in power, good sir," King wrote.

Because many of you probably only knew Dick Gregory as an older man, I wanted to show you these young images.

Rest in power good sir. pic.twitter.com/ZayInokcaJ

— Shaun King (@ShaunKing) August 20, 2017

Singer John Legend called Gregory a "groundbreaker in comedy and a voice for justice."

Dick Gregory lived an amazing, revolutionary life. A groundbreaker in comedy and a voice for justice. RIP

— John Legend (@johnlegend) August 20, 2017

Some people posted excerpts from Gregory's memoir, "Callous on My Soul," such as when he wrote about a waitress in the South telling him that they "don't serve colored people."

White lady: We don't serve colored people here.

Dick Gregory: I don't eat colored people. Bring me a whole fried chicken.

RIP Mr. Gregory😰 pic.twitter.com/t8dnuRJhBC

— Eugene Gu, MD (@eugenegu) August 20, 2017

Here is a sample of some other tweets paying tribute to Gregory and lamenting his passing.

Comedian Dick Gregory always told it like it is. Our laughter was fuel to fight for justice in an unjust world. RIP 1932-2017 pic.twitter.com/wpbdEkvny1

— Neil deGrasse Tyson (@neiltyson) August 20, 2017

Marching w/ King. Sitting w/ Ali. Paving the way for our comedic greats. All while fighting for us.

Rest well Dick Gregory. #blkcreatives pic.twitter.com/GsfRTjHSuy

— #blkcreatives netwrk (@blkcreatives) August 20, 2017

He taught us how to laugh. He taught us how to fight.He taught us how to live.Dick Gregory was committed to justice.I miss him already. #RIP pic.twitter.com/3CfpM2O17D

— Rev Jesse Jackson Sr (@RevJJackson) August 20, 2017

Rest In Peace to civil rights icon Dick Gregory. An inspiration. A hero. 🙏 pic.twitter.com/kIzeYMNjor

— Ricky Davila (@TheRickyDavila) August 20, 2017


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