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United States A grieving father takes aim at the US gun lobby

A teddy bear on the bed, a pair of dance shoes, a university diploma: Alison Parker's brutally shortened life is summed up in her bedroom, which her parents keep as a memorial.

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Andy Parker sits in his daughter Alison's bedroom, which he and his wife have turned into a memorial following her murder in 2015 play

Andy Parker sits in his daughter Alison's bedroom, which he and his wife have turned into a memorial following her murder in 2015

(AFP)
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A teddy bear on the bed, a pair of dance shoes, a university diploma: Alison Parker's brutally shortened life is summed up in her bedroom, which her parents keep as a memorial.

The 24-year-old's promising career as a journalist ended on August 26, 2015, when she was shot dead by a disgruntled former reporter during a live interview.

That day changed everything for her father Andy Parker, who has channeled his pain over losing his daughter into fighting the proliferation of firearms in the US.

"My heart is forever broken, my soul has been crushed and this sadness sort of lingers over me like a chronic disease that you just can't shake," Parker told AFP at his home in Collinsville, Virginia.

Parker said he gets through it by staying angry, and channeling that anger to "go after the bad guys."

The area is a Republican stronghold, and Virginia is home to the headquarters of the National Rifle Association (NRA), America's all-powerful gun lobby.

"The gun culture here, it's like a religion -- they worship their guns, I think, more than they do Jesus," Parker said.

The NRA, which backed Donald Trump in his bid for the presidency, strives to block all attempts at gun control.

NRA chief 'a gun salesman'

Alison Parker and cameraman Adam Ward, shown in an undated photo courtesy of WDBJ7-TV, were shot dead on live TV by a disgruntled former reporter play

Alison Parker and cameraman Adam Ward, shown in an undated photo courtesy of WDBJ7-TV, were shot dead on live TV by a disgruntled former reporter

(WDBJ7-TV/AFP/File)

Parker, a 64-year-old former actor who is originally from Texas, has made fighting against the NRA his reason for being.

In the media, at protests, wherever he can, he denounces the United States' tragically unique status as "the only place in the civilized world where 90 people a day are killed by guns."

Parker's main target is NRA chief Wayne LaPierre, whom he accuses of hijacking an organization that initially worked for the safe handling of firearms.

"Wayne LaPierre basically took over and hijacked the membership, and essentially he is a gun salesman," said Parker, denouncing the money from firearms manufacturers that floods American politics.

Virginia residents go to the polls on November 7 to vote for governor and members of the state's legislature.

Following a mass shooting in Las Vegas that killed 58 people and wounded nearly 500 earlier this month, gun control has become a key issue in the state's 2017 elections.

The NRA has spent more than $750,000 in support of Republican gubernatorial candidate Ed Gillespie, whom the organization awarded an "A" rating "for his strong support of the Second Amendment" to the US Constitution, which guarantees the right to bear arms.

Soon after the Las Vegas shooting, Gillespie refused to discuss measures to limit weapons, saying doing so would be premature.

'What I have to do'

His Democratic opponent, Ralph Northam, has an "F" rating from the NRA.

Northam has said that "we do not need assault weapons on our streets," and advocated restoring a law that restricts buyers to purchasing more than one gun per month.

Prior to a 2016 shooting at an Orlando nightclub, Virginia was the state where the deadliest shooting in recent US history occurred, when a student at Virginia Tech gunned down 32 people in 2007.

Andy Parker says that after his daughter's murder, he feels that if he were not fighting against the powerful NRA gun lobby, he "would be letting her down" play

Andy Parker says that after his daughter's murder, he feels that if he were not fighting against the powerful NRA gun lobby, he "would be letting her down"

(AFP)

Since the Las Vegas shooting, more than 2,500 people have been killed or wounded by firearms in the US, according to the organization Everytown for Gun Safety, which is financed by billionaire Michael Bloomberg.

Everytown has spent close to $2 million in support of the Democratic candidates in Virginia.

Other organizations exist as well, but proponents of gun control ultimately do not present a united front when facing the NRA, Parker said.

"Some days are tougher than others, but I know that this is what I have to do," he said.

"I know that if I weren't doing what I was doing, I would be letting her down. She is here with me," he said, touching his heart.

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