By Andy Parker
In 2015 my life and the lives of my family were forever changed. My daughter, Alison Parker, was reporting on live television for WBDJ7 in Roanoke when she was shot and killed. Her murder set me on a new course to do whatever I can to rid the scourge that gun violence has had on our country and our Commonwealth. It affects every demographic and income level and occurs in every corner of Virginia. It does not discriminate.
Over the course of the last four years, I’ve lobbied both state and federal legislators to no avail. Republican-controlled branches of government see the answer to this epidemic as adding more guns to our streets; yes you read that correctly. Even in our own Commonwealth, home of what was once the deadliest mass shooting in the country, at Virginia Tech, Republicans are incapable of compromise. I’ve witnessed Republican lawmakers refuse to advance any reasonable gun bills to be considered by the full Senate. Last year a new specially license plate saying “Stop Gun Violence” was introduced, and based on the reactions from many Republicans you would have thought it said “Kill Whitey.” The plate was ultimately approved by the General Assembly, but the House majority leader and seven of his fellow absolutists still voted against it. Even modest bills such as a proposal requiring day care centers to lock away any guns on the property are seen as efforts to chip away at a fundamental constitutional right. The house leader claimed “The agenda toward taking firearms away from law-abiding people is ultimately insatiable.” To say it’s sickening, disheartening, and maddening are vast understatements.
During the 2018 session, Barbara and I testified for an Extreme Risk Protection Order bill. We admonished the committee that “thoughts and prayers” were not enough, that had the law been enacted years ago, our daughter might still be doing the news. We implored them that it was time for action.
The response from the chairman? “We’re so sorry for your loss. Thank you for speaking.” The committee then proceeded to kill the bill along straight party lines. They did the same for every piece of sensible gun legislation including a bump stock ban, despite tearful testimony from a young woman who survived the horrific mass shooting at the concert in Las Vegas.
Sadly, this year is no different. That Extreme Risk Protective Order along with other common-sense bills has gone down again despite support of the overwhelming majority of Virginians. A similar bill passed in Florida with bi-partisan support in the wake of the Parkland shooting. Every Virginia Senate Republican has blood on his hands. They’re on the wrong side of history and don’t care.
I didn’t testify this year. I’d seen that movie before and know how it ends. The good news is we won’t have to watch this version of Groundhog Day again next year. Hope is on the horizon, Virginia. If the elections in 2017 and 2018 are a barometer, there will be several new faces in the Senate come November 5.
If we can flip two seats in the state House and Senate, Democrats have the majority and can work to address these fundamental issues. That’s just one of the many reasons why I am proud to stand with and support Senate Democratic Leader Dick Saslaw, along with the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, in his upcoming primary and in the general election.
Senator Saslaw has long been our steadfast voice and advocate. He spoke up for the cause when no one else would and stood up when no one else did. He’s been a champion and ally of the cause before it was politically expedient for him to do so. And as Majority Leader of the Senate, I know he will work to pass meaningful legislation to curb the plague of gun violence in Virginia. Legislation like universal background checks, extreme risk protective orders, banning high capacity magazines, and outlawing the sale of military-style assault weapons to the general public are just a few of those common sense approaches.
So I encourage citizens of his district, which includes parts of Fairfax, Alexandria, and the entire city of Falls Church, to support him as well. His leadership, statesmanship, and ability to be effective in Richmond is something his district and the entire Commonwealth of Virginia desperately needs as we work to regain the majorities in the House and Senate. As Minority Leader he’s done so much to champion the progressive causes we care about like expanding Medicaid, blocking radical anti-choice legislation, and working to invest more into public education.
Just imagine what he could do in the majority. Believe me, Virginia, I have witnessed first-hand what he can accomplish. We need his continued leadership. Support him in June and let’s make Virginia a safer place for all of us.