Chip Vincent

By Don Shipman/Atlanta News First

Manuel and Patricia Oliver’s son was killed in the Parkland school shooting

ATLANTA, Ga. (Atlanta News First) – Two Parkland parents who have made it their life’s mission to end gun violence are taking their message on the road.

Manuel and Patricia Oliver never sought out to be activists.

“It’s not even something that I enjoy,” Manuel said. “It’s my duty, and I have to do it for your kids, for his kids, everyone’s kids.”

Manuel and Patricia’s life work changed the day their 17-year-old son Joaquin — whom they affectionately called Guac — was shot and killed in a mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

“The day that I lost my son, I lost my best friend,” Manuel said about the shooting, which was five years ago.

Over the next 50 days, the Olivers are traveling the country in a yellow school bus, holding pop-up rallies. The moving billboard visited downtown Atlanta on Wednesday.

“[The school bus] is an iconic symbol of safety, education, caring, because you’re carrying kids inside,” Patricia said.

In July, there have already been 11 mass shootings, defined as acts of gun violence injuring or killing at least four people. Since January, that number is 346, according to the Gun Violence Archive.

The Olivers hope their school bus tour inspires others to speak out. Patricia said she doesn’t let her language barrier stop her.

“I think that inspires a lot of women, a lot of moms,” she said. “They might feel insecure and frustrated about what they’re going to do with their kids. I don’t have that problem anymore, sadly.”

The Oliver’s bus tour started on Monday in Parkland. They then traveled to Orlando to the Pulse Memorial, another mass shooting site.

In the coming days they plan to visit Uvalde, Texas, where schoolchildren were gunned down in their classroom. In all, they will make 23 stops at mass shooting locations to spread the word about gun violence — and to honor their son.

Manuel described their work as “a slow process.”

“There are too many guns out there,” he said. “The process is starting from the very young Americans.”

You can learn more about the Oliver’s mission by visiting their website changetheref.org.

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