Taylor Batten

A father’s passionate but naive cry for help

Mourners watch the funeral procession for WDBJ-TV cameraman Adam Ward in Roanoke, Va., on Tuesday.
Mourners watch the funeral procession for WDBJ-TV cameraman Adam Ward in Roanoke, Va., on Tuesday. AP

“This time it’s going to be different.”

It’s the understandable but naïve cry of a father who has suffered an unfathomable loss.

“These people are messing with the wrong family. We are going to effect a change and it’s going to happen.”

It is the bravado of the uninitiated.

“We cannot be told that this fight has been fought before and that we’re just one more grieving family trying to do something.”

It’s the plea of just one more grieving mother trying to do something.

Andy and Barbara Parker have been thrust, tragically, into America’s debate about guns. Their 24-year-old daughter, Alison, was shot and killed while reporting on live TV in Roanoke, Va., last week. Her cameraman, Adam Ward, was also killed and a local chamber executive was shot and survived.

But can it even be called a debate about guns anymore? The debate is over. Guns won.

The Parkers have bravely gone public, insisting to anyone who will listen that their daughter will not have died in vain. They are committing the rest of their lives to ensuring that Alison’s death wakes America up to the insanity that our gun culture has become.

They think that this time will be different.

“We want to take the lead on this and get something done,” Andy Parker told CNN’s Jake Tapper this week. “And I think, this time, you always think there’s a tipping point. We thought that when Gabby (Giffords) was shot, something would happen; with Sandy Hook, something would happen; with Aurora, something would happen, and it never did.

“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.”

The poor man. Thinking that his sweet and innocent daughter being gunned down by a mentally ill man could tap the brakes even slightly on Americans’ insistence that they be able to buy guns almost unfettered.

Well, maybe Americans don’t insist upon that. But the NRA does, and Congress obeys, and Americans look the other way and move on with their lives. Of course, the Parkers and the parents in Sandy Hook will never be able to just move on with their lives.

I admire the courage and ambition of Andy and Barbara Parker. But they are about to get a lesson in the politics of guns that’s colder than a steel barrel. They are about to understand the heights of the NRA’s influence, and the depths of public apathy.

If the killing of 20 young children and six adults at Sandy Hook doesn’t do it; if the murder of nine prayerful churchgoers in Charleston doesn’t do it; if a rampage on the Virginia Tech campus doesn’t do it; if 12 killed in a Colorado movie theater doesn’t do it, then the death of two in Roanoke, Va., isn’t going to shake the American public into getting serious about stopping a carnage unparalleled in the developed world.

And until the public insists on it, Congress and state legislatures will be happy to look the other way.

Think I’m not giving Alison’s parents enough credit? Think I’m too much of a pessimist?

Prove me wrong. Prove Andy and Barbara Parker right.

Reach me at tbatten@charlotteobserver.com, and @tbatten1.

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