A Year Later. What's Changed?

It is a parent’s worst nightmare to get that call that your child has been killed.  That’s what happened a year ago when my daughter Alison was murdered on live television.  The world I knew before that day ended when Barbara and I, our son Drew, and Alison’s boyfriend Chris Hurst became members of a club no one ever wants to join.  You never imagine something like this could happen to you, or to someone you love – but it can and it did. Not a single day goes by that we don’t feel the devastation and void in our souls. It the “new normal” for lives that will never be the same.  At first, we grieved. And as we grieved, we got angry.   While my emotions were still raw, I vowed to do “whatever it takes” to end gun violence.  Little did I know when I uttered those words it would become a rallying cry. 

In the lead up to this day, I’ve been asked what’s changed in the last year.  The NRA still controls too many politicians.  There is no new meaningful common sense gun legislation passed at a federal level, and tracked terrorists can still buy weapons even if they can’t board a flight.  The NRA, however, continues a message that Hillary Clinton and other political leaders advocating gun sense want to abolish the second amendment.   How many times does it take to say, “no one is coming to take your guns away and if you can pass a background check, you can buy a firearm”? With hundreds of millions of guns in circulation across country could the government possibly take all of these guns away?  A rhetorical question of course, but it underscores the absurdity of the gun lobby’s argument.  Sadly, too many people drink that Kool-Aid. 

Politicians like Paul Ryan, Mike McCaul, and Bob Goodlatte know better.  They’re not knuckle draggers waiving Confederate flags at Trump rallies, but they still fall in lock step behind their orange-faced Fuhrer who promotes this “assault on the second amendment” nonsense. Their bloody hands are egregiously in the pockets of the NRA and they are afraid to pull them out. 

I recently had the opportunity to confront Rep. Goodlatte at a community forum in Roanoke, Virgina following the heinous attacks on police this summer.  In his rambling speech he never mentioned guns once.  When it was time for Q&A, I ran down the list of his non-action to the audience, including his refusal to hold hearings on any of the more than 100 bills to address gun violence he has collecting dust on his desk.  My only question for him was, “Bob, how do you sleep at night?”  As usual, he looked like he swallowed a lemon.  He never uttered a word of response.  It was the face and the response of a coward and I’ve opined before― this coward should join the treasonous Republican leadership in acquiring a new wardrobe—orange jump suits.    

The fight for change is daunting, but change has happened since Alison’s death.  Despite fierce opposition from the NRA, common sense gun legislation has passed at the state level and gun lobby efforts to repeal other laws have been thwarted.  There are recent signs of cracks within the republican party.  Pennsylvania Senator Pat Toomey, a Republican, is breaking ranks as have others. Whatever the motive, the gun issue resonates. 

I came out swinging a year ago and I challenged the media not to let her story fade.  While I take exception at the way her death was covered by this publication, the Daily News has subsequently kept the issue on the front burner, blasting the NRA and their political stooges at every opportunity.  In a Democratic debate shortly after Alison was killed, one of the first questions CNN asked the candidates was about guns.  Secretary Clinton and Governor O’Malley were tripping over each other to talk about what needed to be done and Bernie finally got it. 

Until this past year, guns had been the third rail of politics.  Barbara and I visited Tim Kaine days before he got picked as Clinton’s VP.  We talked about the change.  He suggested that even two years ago Republicans would say “Democrats are coming to take your guns” to which Democrats would respond “no we’re not, but we’d rather talk about education…or something else.”  That presidential debate showed a sea change.  Democrats are no longer running away from guns.  It’s now part of the national conversation and the media has made good on my challenge. 

We are still a long way from real change, but we are getting there.  Being free from fear of going to the movies, or to school, or to a house of worship is a civil right.  Our fight to be free of gun violence is the same fight for civil rights in the 50’ and 60’s or marriage equality in this decade.  Momentum is on our side and it’s only a matter of time until we prevail. 

Alison was fierce competitor.  She hated to lose and she got that fire from me.  I said in an interview last year, “the gun lobby messed with the wrong people.”  My conviction won’t waver and I am buoyed by the support of all who want to spare the next family member from a preventable death.  The needle has moved and I’m not going to lose this fight.  I’m Alison’s dad.