Grieving father meets with key congressman on guns

Story highlights

  • Andy Parker wanted Rep. Bob Goodlatte to hold a hearing on legislation to reduce gun violence
  • Parker's daughter, TV reporter Alison Parker, was shot to death on live television in August
  • Goodlatte chairs the House Judiciary panel and represents the district where Parker was killed

Washington (CNN)The meeting brought together two foes on guns: the grieving father of a reporter killed on live television and the powerful chairman of the House Judiciary Committee who has backed the NRA for two decades.

Andy Parker hoped he could appeal to Rep. Bob Goodlatte's heart. The Republican represents the Virginia district where his daughter, Alison Parker, was killed along with her cameraman, Adam Ward, in August.
The 12-term congressman had offered his condolences and prayers to Parker shortly after his daughter was killed, saying he had worked with her and that she and her colleague would be "dearly missed."
    Goodlatte's staff reached out to Parker to arrange the meeting after Parker called the congressman out on TV and in op-eds for being in the "pocket of the NRA." The two men met last month in Goodlatte's Capitol Hill office while Parker was in Washington to see lawmakers and speak at an Everytown for Gun Safety rally.
    Andy Parker speaks at an Everytown for Gun Safety rally on Capitol Hill in September.
    After brief introductions, Parker urged Goodlatte to hold a hearing on legislation to reduce gun violence. Dozens of proposed gun bills have been held up in Goodlatte's Judiciary Committee.
    But the meeting didn't go as Parker had hoped.
    "He followed the typical line of: Enforce the existing gun laws," Parker told CNN. "I didn't get the sense that there was going to be any action on any of my requests."
    Parker said the congressman told him he only holds hearings on bills that have a chance of being passed -- and that he didn't think the proposed gun legislation did. "He's a coward," Parker said.
    Parker pressed for a private hearing away from the cameras, just so "I could look each one of these legislators in the eye and ask why they won't vote for common-sense gun laws like universal background checks."
    "At the very least, I wanted to have my day in court."
    Parker said Goodlatte told him he would hold a hearing, but only if Parker would issue a statement encouraging the Justice Department to enforce existing gun laws.
    That was a nonstarter to the grieving father. He said he'd already called for current laws to be enforced in his many TV appearances and that he'd seen no effort by Goodlatte to reciprocate. Parker walked out after 15 minutes. "Once it was clear that he was not really going to do anything, I got up and said, 'I think we're done here.'"
    Parker met with Virginia Republican and House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte
    In a follow-up email to a member of Goodlatte's staff, Parker wrote, "I've heard nothing in the way of the congressman's desire to either hold hearings or consider any legislation on closing loopholes and universal background checks. In the wake of the most recent tragedy [in Oregon], my outrage has reached a new level, while your boss remains silent and complicit."
    Asked by CNN about the meeting, Goodlatte issued a written statement:
    "We spoke about additional ways to help reduce gun violence, while also protecting the rights of law-abiding citizens," Goodlatte wrote. "At the same time, as I have pointed out to the Obama administration in the past, many of our nation's gun laws are not currently being enforced.
    "I remain committed to aggressive oversight of the administration and urge them to take immediate steps to fully enforce the gun laws already on the books," Goodlatte said.
    The congressman described the meeting as "positive," a contention Parker called "quite an overstatement." Goodlatte's office refused to offer any further comment about the meeting.
    The two discussed a possible "violent behavior reporting act" that would help employers communicate more freely with one another about prospective employees, Parker said. The man who killed Parker's daughter had a turbulent work history that wasn't known to staff at Alison Parker's Roanoke, Virginia, TV station when he was first hired there.
    Parker said they also spoke about the need to address the role mental health has played in gun violence, and they discussed Rep. Tim Murphy's comprehensive mental health reform bill.
    "That was the only area that, perhaps, there's some opportunity," Parker said.
    Goodlatte has since met with Murphy, a Republican from Pennsylvania, about his bill. Murphy's chief of staff, Susan Mosychuk, said they are optimistic the Judiciary chairman will get on board.
    Reporter Alison Parker and her cameraman were shot to death in August during a live broadcast.
    Goodlatte has been in office since 1993, winning by huge margins throughout his career. He holds an "A" grade from the National Rifle Association for his long-standing support of gun rights. Since coming to office, Goodlatte has received more than $67,000 in campaign contributions from the NRA, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. In 2012, the Sunlight Foundation listed him among the top five recipients of NRA money in the House.
    He has co-sponsored legislation barring lawsuits against gun manufacturers. He co-sponsored a bill to repeal gun registration in Washington, D.C., and deny the district "authority to enact laws or regulations that discourage or eliminate the private ownership or use of firearms."
    At the Everytown for Gun Safety rally in Washington last month, Parker was flanked by Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe and Virginia's two Democratic senators, Mark Warner and Tim Kaine. He vowed to take on the gun lobby.
    "We can, we must and we will," he said. "Too many members of Congress remain in the pocket of the gun lobby, and that has got to change. They're unwilling to take on special interests that have insisted on keeping weak gun laws in place for too long."
    Of Goodlatte, he said, "If you won't support background checks, we'll find someone else who will."
    Parker says he intends to campaign against Goodlatte's re-election next November, hoping to topple the long-time incumbent.
    "There's no excuse in doing nothing," he said. "I hope he enjoys his last year in Congress."