WASHINGTON — The father of a reporter shot to death on live television said Sunday that he wants to take a leading role in helping to curb gun violence.
Andy Parker told CNN’s Jake Tapper that he wants to see a tightening of loopholes in gun laws and urged that the slaying of his daughter, Alison Parker, and cameraman Andy Ward remain in the news.
“Just don’t be desensitized to this issue,” Parker pleaded with Tapper’s “State of the Union” viewers.
He said other shootings have grabbed the nation’s heart and attention for days, but inevitably those tragedies fade from the public consciousness. He said he doesn’t want people to say, “Oh geez, this is another horrific incident,” and then turn their attention to “What’s for dinner tonight, honey?”
Parker and Ward were doing an interview on a live morning show for CNN affiliate WDBJ on Wednesday when a former reporter for the station came up to them and gunned them down, and shot and wounded the person being interviewed.
Andy Parker said he hasn’t watched television since his daughter’s slaying. She was 24 years old. Ward was 27.
In grief and anger, Parker told Tapper that he’s committed to making sure that more is done legislatively concerning guns in America.
“I’m telling you, they messed with the wrong family,” Parker said.
The killer, Vester Lee Flanagan II, filmed himself killing the journalists, then posted the footage to social media.
Prior to the attack, he sent ABC News a fax outlining his motivations and said he was inspired to buy a gun after the June church attack in which a white man killed nine black people at a Charleston, South Carolina, church.
Hours after Flanagan killed Parker and Ward, authorities tried to pull him over. He sped away but then ran off the road. He was found inside the car with a self-inflicted gunshot wound, and transported to the hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
“This person, to me, he doesn’t even register,” Andy Parker said Sunday of Flanagan. “What registers is he was mentally disturbed and he was allowed to pass a background check.”
Parker said he’s communicated with several influential gun control advocates and plans to get involved in pushing “sensible gun control legislation.”
He said he’ll become an advocate for gun control, saying he’s been in contact with Mark Kelly, the astronaut husband of former Rep. Gabby Giffords, who was targeted by a shooter, as well as representatives for former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, a gun control supporter.
“I’m going to be working on this for a long time. I know that this is not a sprint, it’s a marathon,” he said, adding that he’d work on the issue with Chris Hurst, Parker’s boyfriend and an employee of the same Virginia television station.
Parker said he and Hurst want to “put this thing together and make a difference and speak as one voice and hold the politicians’ feet to the fire.”
He pointed to a California measure that allows law enforcement and relatives to request a gun owner’s firearms be taken away if they feel the person is mentally ill.
Parker said a similar law in Virginia “probably would have prevented this from happening.”
He discussed Republican presidential contender Donald Trump’s comments that the killing is related to mental health challenges.
“It is a mental health issue,” Parker said. “But there’s a linkage there between guns and mental health. And there’s got to be some kind of protocol established so that we keep people from getting guns.”
“You always think there’s a tipping point. We thought that when Gabby was shot, you know, something would happen. With Sandy Hook, something would happen. With Aurora, something would happen. And it never did,” Parker said.
“But I think people recognizing who the victim was and what she represented and how kind and sweet and innocent she was, I think this time it’s going to be different,” he said.