There was standing room only as Andy Parker, with editor Ben Williams, talked about his book, “For Alison — the Murder of a Young Journalist and a Father's Fight for Gun Safety,” at the Martinsville Library.
People lined the walls of the library’s meeting room and were packed into the hall, leaning toward the room listening, on Monday as he talked about the book, which was released on March 5.
Alison Parker, a Martinsville High School and James Madison University graduate, was shot on Aug. 26, 2015, as she was conducting a live, morning-show interview at Smith Mountain Lake for WDBJ-Channel 7 of Roanoke, along with photographer Adam Ward.
Her father since has become a national-level advocate for stricter gun control, and Alison’s mother, Barbara Parker, created the For Alison Foundation, which supports students and organizations in the arts — which always were important to Alison.
Lately Andy Parker also is taking on the internet, putting pressure on major technological companies, especially Google, which owns YouTube, to halt the posting of videos of his daughter’s murder.
He has never seen a video of her killing, he has told the media, and never wants to. Meanwhile, many videos of her killing, in two versions — one from the television camera’s viewpoint and the other from that of the murderer — exist on YouTube. Also out there are conspiracy videos claiming that the shooting was a hoax.
“It’s [the book] a tough read, and if you think it was a tough read — it was a hell of a tough write,” Parker said in an interview in November. He described the book as “a hybrid between a memoir and a current events book.”
Paula Burnette, who was at the program, asked how people could support his efforts at getting those murder videos off the internet.
“Try getting ahold of anybody in Google. It’s completely walled off,” Andy Parker said.
He has only been able to get started with contacts thanks to the assistance of U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine’s office, he said. The forward of the book is written by Kaine.
Barbara Parker suggested writing congressmen about the issue.
On the matter of gun control, “The Brady organization [Brady Campaign] is a good resource,” Andy Parker said.
“I can see no reason to be selling assault rifles in this country … and I’m a gun collector,” Mervyn King said, adding that he also is concerned about the legalization of marijuana, saying that marijuana use exacerbates mental problems people may have, and studies show that “paranoid schizophrenics are five times more likely to commit murder” than the general population.
Williams, who edited the book, said that even though he owns several guns, “I firmly believe there is absolutely no reason a civilian should buy one [an assault weapon]. … The reason people want them is because they are fun,” and that is “no justification” for owning them.
Andy and Barbara Parker said that even Alison had shot guns a few times for recreation. Andy Parker said shooting assault weapons should be restricted to a gun range, and individuals should not own assault weapons, but rather users at gun ranges should just check out such weapons, like library books, and return them before leaving.
His talk Monday also was lighthearted, with memories of Alison. Evalyn Chapman asked how Alison got the nickname “Scooter.” The Parkers said there didn’t seem to be any clear reason why, but simply that Andy Parker had started calling her that when she was little.
“She never had a problem with it,” even as an adult, he added.
Some of those attending had brought books to be signed, and all of the books the Parkers had brought with them were sold and autographed.
“This is such a great turnout, and I’m touched,” Andy Parker said.
By Tuesday on Amazon.com the book had 17 reviews, all five-star (the highest).
One, from a customer listed as “Melanie,” wrote “Reading Andy Parker's story is at once heart wrenching and a gut punch. Its a story of great loss and learning to continue on after the devastation.”
“As you read it, you feel you are right there as everything unfolds,” wrote “Amazon Customer.”
Someone listed as “Karen Peters” wrote, “I will not lie. This true story is a hard read. It breaks your heart, but it is utterly necessary. There are so many dimensions of our culture and legislation that Mr. Parker reveals to be in desperate need of change. Take it in stages. Digest. And then get off of the floor and call your legislator, get involved at your local level and protect American families.”
“The author is brutally honest” was a comment from “BookLover.” “The author says clearly that he's not pushing to take everyone's guns away; he's pushing for commonsense measures to encourage safety and fewer mass shootings, and he proposes a well thought-out plan for this. This is an important read for everyone who wants fewer mass shootings and less gun violence.”