MARTINSVILLE — Andy Parker, the father of slain WDBJ (Channel 7) journalist Alison Parker, announced Thursday he was dropping out of the race to regain a seat on the Henry County Board of Supervisors to focus on his campaign for gun control legislation.
Parker made the announcement at the Henry County Administration Building.
Representing Henry County is important, he said, but it would distract Parker from what is now his “bigger mission.”
“It’s really going to be more beneficial, I think, to be Alison’s dad when I confront legislators and congressmen to do something, to act on reasonable gun legislation.”
Parker said he is not opposed to the Second Amendment. He just wants “to keep guns out of the hands of crazy people.”
For Parker, two things would constitute a win: closing the gun show loophole that allows some firearm buyers to get around background checks, and implementing a law similar to that of California’s Gun Violence Restraining Order.
The California law, which goes into effect in January, allows family members and law enforcement agencies to request that a judge temporarily confiscate a person’s guns.
If Virginia had such a law, Parker said, maybe it would have made a difference for his daughter and WDBJ cameraman Adam Ward. The two were killed Aug. 26 on live television while interviewing Smith Mountain Lake Regional Chamber of Commerce director Vicki Gardner, who was seriously wounded.
The man identified by police as the killer, disgruntled ex-WDBJ employee Vester Lee Flanagan II, later killed himself while being pursued by state troopers in Northern Virginia.
“The guy that killed Alison and Adam, he was physically escorted by the police out of the station,” Parker said of Flanagan’s 2013 firing from WDBJ. “That’s a red flag, and somebody should’ve caught it. And that’s something that could’ve been prevented by this legislation.”
Parker is going to Washington, D.C., next week to meet with others who can help him spread the word about his desire for gun control legislation. He plans to meet with Sen. Mark Warner; Mark Kelly, the husband of former congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords; and representatives of Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s Everytown for Gun Safety group.
On Sept. 10, Parker will attend a rally — Whatever it Takes Day of Action — at the U.S. Capitol organized by Everytown for Gun Safety.
Parker said he won’t stop until they “win this thing.”
He described his daughter as a “fierce competitor” in everything that she did, whether that was gymnastics, swimming or getting the story first.
Alison’s brains, beauty and poise came from her mother, Parker said. But the competitive drive — that came from him. He lost his daughter, Parker said, but he’s not going to lose this fight.
“When we win this fight, that’s going to be her legacy,” Parker said. “She’s got a legacy now as a great journalist and, you know, she was a rock star and a force of nature. But her legacy is going to be when we win meaningful, common sense gun control.”
Some people say it’s too soon for Parker to launch a campaign for gun control legislation, but he disagrees. Parker is channeling his emotion into action, he said. This is the way that he chooses to grieve.
“We have a rain barrel in our yard and I am sure that I have cried enough tears to fill that rain barrel up — and then some,” Parker said. “But I’m not the kind of guy that is just going to sit around and just have grief consume me.”
People may ask themselves why this tragedy will yield change when so many others — like the Sandy Hook Elementary School and Aurora movie theater shootings — have not. Parker acknowledged this, but said it’s the cynical way of looking at things. And he can’t be cynical about this.
“I have to believe,” he said. “I have to believe that this is the one.”
Parker had previously served on the Henry County Board of Supervisors, representing the Reed Creek District. He won the seat in a 2003 three-way race. Parker did not seek re-election in 2007, instead running unsuccessfully for a seat in the Virginia House of Delegates.
Parker had been running against incumbent Tommy Slaughter and R.E. “Mike” Seidle Jr., and said Thursday he was backing Slaughter’s re-election campaign.