Andy Parker has dedicated every day since August 26, 2015 to addressing gun violence in America. That’s the day his daughter, Alison Parker, 24, a local news reporter, was shot and killed during a live TV broadcast alongside cameraman Adam Ward, 27.
“Early on, someone told me this is a marathon and not a sprint,” Parker said.
That’s why Parker has spent years working to enact “common sense gun control” in his home state of Virginia and on a national level. It’s also why he recently published a book about his daughter’s life and legacy, “For Alison: The Murder of a Young Journalist and a Father’s Fight for Gun Safety” (Apollo Publishers).
Parker has traveled across the country to speak on behalf of ballot initiatives and talk with politicians who support policies like universal background checks for all gun sales, banning automatic firearms and limiting the sale of ammunition magazines.
“It’s easy stuff, really,” Parker said. “It’s just too easy to get a gun, and if you ask regular gun owners, most of them will agree with it.”
More than 80 percent of Americans, gun owners and non-gun owners alike, support universal background checks, according to a 2018 study from Johns Hopkins University.
Parker is also calling for red flag laws, which allow family members or law enforcement officers to seek court orders restricting a person’s access to firearms when they show “red flags,” such as being a danger to themselves or others. He said if Virginia’s state government had passed red flag laws before his daughter’s death, she would still be alive today.
More than anything, though, Parker wants to ensure Americans do not become complacent about gun violence. In 2018 alone, there were over 300 mass shootings across the United States.
“I said the day Alison was killed that this can’t be an issue that just goes away,” Parker said. “I don’t want to see these shootings, which occur way too regularly, cause people to go, ‘Oh jeez, there’s another one.'”
He hopes “For Alison” helps keep her death, and his cause, in the public’s consciousness.
“I am going to use this book as a call to action,” Parker said. “I hope this book is a tool to make sure people don’t become desensitized to this issue.”
But Parker also wrote the book to memorialize Alison’s generosity and kindness. He said Alison was always the first to help and mentor others, especially around the WDBJ7 newsroom where she worked.
“I want people to remember her for the way she lived and not the way she died,” Parker said. “I think the work on his book was as much her gift to me as it was my gift to her.”
Parker admitted that no law or policy could put an end to all gun deaths, but he called for leaders on both sides of the aisle, from city councils to Congress, to come up with policy solutions in the wake of gun violence.
“People will still get killed,” Parker said. “It’s not a panacea, but some people will be saved, and if we can save any lives, we should.”
Parker has also waded into a conflict with Google and YouTube over his daughter’s death. With help from the Georgetown University Law Center Civil Rights Clinic, he has demanded the sites take down posts with footage of the shooting from “truthers,” who allege Alison’s death was a hoax for political purposes.
“You lose your child. You’re victimized by a tragedy, and then you’re victimized by these cruel people,” Parker said.
For those who want to get involved with organizing against gun violence, Parker said the best way to make a difference is through advocacy organizations like Moms Demand Action, Everytown for Gun Safety and the Brady Campaign.
“It’s good for people who want to do something to join even if they have never done anything,” Parker said.
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