Mark Bando has lived through every parent’s worst nightmare. He’s still living through it.
Last year Bando’s son, Christopher Andrew Leinonen, 32, who grew up in Macomb County before moving to Florida as a teen, was brutally murdered in a mass shooting at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando. Forty-nine people were killed.
So when a new mass shooting earlier this month ended the lives of 58 people, becoming the deadliest shooting in modern American history, it affected Bando. It “brought back bad memories,” said the retired Detroit cop. That may be an understatement.
The shooting has reignited the raging debate over gun control. Proponents of more controls say it makes sense to ban semi-automatic assault rifles and close the gun show loophole that exempts buyers from background checks. They also scoff at the notion that “a good guy with a gun” could stop mass shootings.
Bando has argued that a gun in the right hands could’ve made a difference in the Pulse nightclub shooting.
“It is likely such attacks will continue, until the victims start shooting back,” wrote Bando in a letter to the editor of The Detroit News in late June 2016, just days after his son was killed.
Tragically, the attacks have continued. And we don’t seem any closer to stopping them.
Bando acknowledges his support of armed patrons at a public event doesn’t apply to what happened in Las Vegas, given that shooter Stephen Paddock conducted his rampage from the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay resort. And frighteningly, Bando also doesn’t see an end to the carnage of mass shootings.
“Sadly, ‘records are made to be broken,’” said Bando in a message via Facebook.
And with mental illness “being the wild card,” he wrote, “I don’t see any way to predict or prevent incidents like the Vegas massacre.”
Still, Bando isn’t opposed to stricter controls on the sale of rifles. Paddock had 16 rifles — some of them with scopes — and a handgun in his hotel room, according to a report from the Associated Press. Two were modified to make them fully automatic.
“I’m not opposed to slightly stricter controls over (the) sale of rifles, but there are so many millions of those already in the hands of private individuals, that a ban on future sales will not eliminate the possibility of a killer finding and using one of the millions of firearms which are already ‘out there,’” wrote Bando.
“It’s a tragic but unsolvable situation,” he wrote. “The only thing that varies from one mass shooting to another is the motivation, intent and tactics.”
Bando’s son’s mother, Christine Leinonen, a former Michigan State Police trooper, has said “common-sense gun policies” save lives. Shortly after the Las Vegas shootings, she wrote on her Facebook page that it’s time to stop the sale of assault weapons and high-capacity clips.
“So that the next mass murderer can’t stroll into a gun store and legally buy the assault weapon they will use on you,” she wrote.
But will common-sense gun policies, whatever those are, become law? Fifty-eight people are dead, murdered for simply being in the wrong place at the wrong time. More parents, siblings, and loved ones such as Bando and Leinonen are left grieving.
The question, as it always is, is where do we go from here? Will anything change before or if the next horrific shooting happens?