Anniversaries marking the death of a loved one in a heinous shooting are so difficult. Over time it does get easier but the date is always there somewhere, called up at odd moments. August 5th is my day to remember a shooting anniversary.
Yesterday marked the one year anniversary of the senseless shooting ( aren’t they all?) of journalists Alison Parker and Adam Ward on live TV in Roanoke, Virginia. This is one we will remember if are paying attention. No shooting is OK and rarely are they justified. But to watch it happen on live TV as if watching a fiction show was something unusual, even for America.
Thank you to the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence for the above image.
I remember the day well. August 26th of last year. I remember it because this particular shooting reminded me so viscerally of my own sister’s shooting. I cried when I began hearing the news and know that many other of my friends who have lost loved ones to a shooting felt the same way. Yet one more family had just joined us in the club we didn’t want to belong to in the first place. But Alison and Adams’ deaths happening live on TV was too close to thinking about how it must have been for our own loved ones. We grieved for the friends and relatives of Alison and Adam while we grieved for our own sister, brother, father, mother, daughter, son, niece, nephew, uncle or aunt.
Over the past year, I have met Alison’s parents, Barbara and Andy Parker on several occasions. I have also met and spoken with Chris Hurst, Alison’s fiancé at the time of the shooting. They are all fine and gentle people who have been brave enough to step forward, soon after Alison’s shooting to call for strengthening our gun laws. The pain in their faces is always behind their smiles as they speak of the lovely Alison and her aspiring career as a journalist. Their commitment to gun safety reform is also passionate and fierce.
Alison’s shooting death reminds of us of how vulnerable innocent people can be when someone with a grudge gets his hands on a gun and acts. It is far too easy in America to act on a grudge and far too easy for a “disturbed” person to get a gun, as Alison and Adam’s shooter did:
Overton said the gunman was “disturbed in some way.” Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe, speaking on WTOP, described Flanagan as a “disgruntled” employee. Jeff Marks, WDBJ’s general manager, said during a live broadcast on the station that Flanagan “was sort of looking out for people to say something he could take offense to.”
Marks said Flanagan was fired after “many incidents of his anger coming to the fore.”
“He did not take that well,” he said.
Why is it so easy? Because our America gun culture has evolved, along with the laws that allow just about anyone to buy a gun, to the point where we do very little to screen out those who should not be able to buy a gun. Because the corporate gun lobby has managed to get their friends in Congress to do their bidding, we have come to assume that anyone can be responsible with a deadly weapon. Because owning a gun is a right in America, we have come to assume that means that right can’t be denied to anyone. Because we have come to think we can’t deny a right to a deadly weapon to anyone, we let anyone get a gun easily.
This video from Real Sports shows how easy it is for a 13 year old to walk into a gun show and legally buy a gun from a private seller with no background check to show that he is not old enough to buy or own that gun. This is ludicrous, dangerous and absolutely why we need to stop the private seller loopholes in our gun laws. You can see it for yourself here:
And we are letting this happen. And we look the other way when people who are considered to be “law abiding” gun owners flip out or get angry over a grudge and shoot someone. The gun lobby says that every case like this is just an anomaly. They claim that only criminals with guns shoot people.
They are wrong. It’s a gun lobby myth that only a good guy with a gun can save us all from bad guys with guns. The gun lobby claim that if only someone had had a gun in situations like this one, when the shooter unexpectedly approached the journalists and the woman they were interviewing is false::
Tragically, a record number of Americans subscribe to some version of this mythology, with 63 percent (67 percent of men polled and 58 percent of women) believing that guns truly do make them safer. The public’s confidence in firearms, however, is woefully misguided: The evidence overwhelmingly shows that guns leave everybody less safe, including their owners.
A study from October 2013 analyzed data from 27 developed nations to examine the impact of firearm prevalence on the mortality rate. It found an extremely strong direct relationship between the number of firearms and firearm deaths. The paper concludes: “The current study debunks the widely quoted hypothesis that guns make a nation safer.” This finding is bolstered by several previous studies that have revealed a significant link between gun ownership and firearm-related deaths. This international comparison is especially harrowing for women and children, who die from gun violence in America at far higher rates than in other countries.
If only Alison and Adam had been armed……
Where is common sense?
Work place shootings happen far too often in our country. There is a long list of them, at least one of which occurred in my own state of Minnesota when an angry employee showed up at Accent Signage and shot and killed 6 people and left 3 others injured. I also know the Rahamim family and have seen the pain of their grief over the years since that shooting. The anniversary of that shooting is coming on September 27th and I know that that day is so difficult for all of them.
What is it about angry men, guns and the desire to seek revenge or harm someone? From the article:
One of the most significant findings was the three-way association between individuals who owned multiple guns, carried a gun outside of the home and expressed a pattern of angry, impulsive behavior. Study participants who owned six or more guns were found to be four times more likely to carry guns outside of the home and to be in the high-risk anger group than participants who owned one firearm.
Participants who were considered to have a high risk for impulsive anger responded affirmatively to some or all of the following questions: “I have tantrums or angry outbursts;” “Sometimes I get so angry I break or smash things;” and “I lose my temper and get into physical fights.”
Every day, on average, 90 Americans die from gunshot injuries, including suicide. The Gun Violence Archive keeps tracks of these shootings. Thank goodness someone is doing this because the denial from the gun lobby that these shootings happen in such high numbers often goes without fact checking. The chart on the site shows an up-to-date accounting of gun deaths, including suicides where that information is possible to gather. You can click on the graph and see where the shootings have happened and more about each incident.
The thing is, these are real people with real families who are grieving for their loved ones every day and reminded of that person on anniversaries, holidays, and special family occasions.
Only in America do we mark anniversaries of mass shootings and very high profile public shootings like that of Alison Parker and Adam Ward. They have become synonymous with an American gun culture that has evolved over time with deadly consequences. We don’t have to shrug our shoulders and say nothing can be done because….rights. We know that we can not only change our gun laws, but we are changing the conversation and we can change the culture. Most gun owners are with us and agree with our proposals.
As with other public health and safety campaigns, if we change the conversation and the culture, we can save lives by also changing the laws. That is how we got laws requiring seat belts, air bags and other safety features in cars. The result? Reduced deaths and injuries.It is also how we got a massive change in the way we treat tobacco. It’s not OK any more for smokers to smoke inside where non-smokers come to be at risk for health problems.
And it’s not OK for the shootings that take the lives of our loved ones and leave us marking shooting anniversaries to continue without addressing how we can change things to reduce the violence- the deaths- the injuries- the emotional and psychological trauma- the physical after affects of survivors- the cost to our country in the billions- and the pain and the grief.
And while so many are marking anniversaries of shootings, Congress is taking a break from its’ job in the longest recess ever. Why? Good question. But we are not letting them get away with it. Two weeks ago there was a #DisarmHate rally in DC to mark the 2 month anniversary of the Orlando nightclub shooting that took the lives of 49 Americans. And today is the Day of Unity Rally in DC where rally participants will gather at NRA lobbying headquarters in DC to protest that organizations resistance to strong life saving gun laws. We have had activities all over the country to remind Congress members that we expect them to do their jobs and pass life saving measures to keep us safe from the gun violence that is devastating far too many families and communities. While Congress is away, almost 4000 Americans will die from gunshot injuries.
We have had #Enough.
Let’s get to work. Join me and the many people (many of whom are victims and survivors) working on gun safety reform.