Editor’s Note: Andy Parker is a former executive recruiter in the banking industry. He is now an advocate and activist for “common sense gun legislation.” The views expressed are his own.
Nine killed by gunman at Oregon's Umpqua Community College
Andy Parker: Any closing of a loophole in gun laws can make a difference
On Thursday, almost exactly a month since a disturbed gunman shot my daughter Alison on live television, another senseless act of gun violence took place in this country. This time, nine people died, and another nine people were injured in a shooting at a college in Oregon. As a result, 18 more families and their loved ones have joined the fraternity of those who have experienced the heartache of gun violence.
A month ago, I was like most Americans. I knew this country had issues with gun violence and I felt something should be done about it. And I thought our legislators – those we duly elected to put the interests of this country before all others – would eventually find logical and reasonable means to ensure that obscene acts like this could be prevented.
In the last several weeks, however, my attitude has changed. Because of Alison, I have had access to governors and senators, congressmen and activists. And what I’ve learned firsthand is that despite the fact that there are a great number of highly motivated, dedicated people trying to have a sensible dialogue about gun violence in this country, too many are turning their backs on their responsibilities to protect us.
Take Rep. Michael McCaul, who was on CNN discussing Thursday’s attack. “We need to treat mental illness. And if someone is mentally ill, those signs should come up with family, friends and the gun dealer,” he said.
Such dancing around the issue misses the point. The common denominator in these cases is also the too easy access to guns. And that has got to change. Yes, there is undoubtedly a mental health component to these attacks, and that needs looking at. But addressing access and mental health shouldn’t be seen as somehow mutually exclusive.
When I heard about Thursday’s attack, my heart broke for the families affected. But it quickly turned to rage, because I can’t believe that this is continuing. The president is right – we do need to politicize this. Because opponents of gun control like the NRA sure have politicized the issue. Rep. McCaul knows this very well, because he has been given an A grade by the organization’s political action committee for his voting record and positions.
Of course we’re all familiar with the NRA. According to the organization’s own website, the “primary goal of the association” back when it was formed in 1871, was to “promote and encourage rifle shooting on a scientific basis.” Its core mission was to educate Americans about firearm safety.
Fast forward to today, and the extremist NRA leadership has instead dedicated itself to trying to block any common sense legislation for gun safety. That’s despite the vast majority of hunters I’ve met – and the country at large – being in favor of sensible gun measures to keep our families safe. In fact, one poll last year showed 92% of respondents supporting background checks prior to all gun sales.
I grew up hunting in Texas and like many, I believe in the rights that the Second Amendment grants us. But we must begin to have an open and honest discussion in this country about what we can do as a people to reduce the number of victims of gun violence – over 30,000 in 2013. That’s right – 30,000 new families and their circles of loved ones who have now been inducted into the growing fraternity of gun violence survivors.
But an honest conversation means calling these attacks what they are – domestic terrorism.
One of the things I have found out while talking to lawmakers and officials is that there are about a thousand people on the FBI’s no-fly list. Yet the NRA has backed opposition to legislation aimed at stopping those on the terrorism watch list obtaining firearms. That’s right – they aren’t allowed to fly, but they are allowed to buy weapons.
Those who try to block this kind of legislation should consider themselves complicit in the heartbreak that tens of thousands of Americans are going through every year. You would think the fact tens of thousands of Americans are dying on U.S. soil each year as a result of firearms would especially trouble Rep. McCaul, who is the chairman of the Homeland Security Committee. But according to him, there is “probably” no gun law that could have stopped the Oregon attack.
I don’t agree. And in the coming year, ahead of November’s elections in Virginia, I will be speaking out against the gun lobby. And I know I will be joined by Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, who has been outspoken on this issue. We will be going across the state to identify those too scared to do anything about this fight we are in, and we’re going to call them out.
We might not be able to stop every gun death in America, but any closing of a loophole can make a difference. We are desperately fighting for answers. We must do whatever it takes to find them.