The parents of a news reporter shot and killed on live television spoke out Tuesday night against the Henry County Board of Supervisors’ unanimous vote to declare the county a Second Amendment Sanctuary.
Barbara and Andy Parker sat in the front row at Tuesday evening’s board meeting, seemingly the only gun-control advocates in a room packed with NRA hats and hunting camo. Each wore a pin commemorating their slain daughter, Alison, aged 24; Andy’s pin simply showed Alison’s head shot, while Barbara’s depicted a hand holding a broken red heart, reading “STOP GUN VIOLENCE.”
Surrounding them were hundreds of gun-rights supporters who had turned out in force to encourage the Board of Supervisors to take a stand against what they see as infringements on their right to bear firearms.
The Second Amendment resolution was taken up by the board in a whirlwind process in response to Blackberry resident Josh Barnhart’s comments to the board at the 3 p.m. meeting. Backed by supporters, he urged supervisors to join the surrounding counties of Patrick and Pittsylvania in declaring their support for gun rights.
Several rural Virginia localities have taken this step as a preemptive measure against any future gun control laws after the Nov. 5 election gave Democrats the majority in the state legislature.
As the supervisors returned from a recess at 6 p.m. to present the Second Amendment Sanctuary resolution for approval, Barbara Parker held a typed speech in her hands. She had hurried home to write it after the 3 p.m. session, during which the board directed County Administrator Tim Hall to draft the resolution so they could consider it that evening.
However, the evening session did not allow comments from the public until after the board had unanimously voted (6-0) to approve the resolution.
Around the Parkers, supporters wearing blaze orange stickers reading “Guns Save Lives” and waving signs of “We will not comply #2A” erupted in applause and cheers. The Parkers remained seated, waiting their turn to speak.
After Chair Jim Adams opened the floor to public comments, Barbara Parker was the first to approach the podium. “I had hoped to address the board before the vote,” she said, but went on to make her remarks in order to go on the record with her views.
She described her daughter’s death on Aug. 26, 2015, at the hands of an “angry, disturbed man,” an act that could have been prevented if there had been “red-flag laws” in place. “Alison’s killer could have had his guns taken away while he was evaluated. The people who worked at WDBJ [in Roanoke] were afraid of him, but nothing could be done in spite of his threats,” she said.
“To declare Henry County a Second Amendment sanctuary is to say, ‘Sorry for your loss, but freedom for anyone to have access to guns without any restriction is more important than your child’s life,’” Barbara Parker said. “I’ve been here 22 years, and for the first time, I feel like it’s not my home anymore.”
After Parker’s remarks, about a dozen other citizens made public comments thanking the board for approving the resolution and making arguments against gun control. One woman praised the board’s “courage” in standing up for gun rights.
The Parkers left the meeting after hearing that. Later, Andy Parker, a former county supervisor, said the board showed the opposite quality.
“They have no backbone, no courage,” he said. “When I was on the Board of Supervisors, I’ve been there when a crowd shows up and they want something, and any kind of backbone that might be there disappears. They see a crowd, and they fold.”
After the meeting, at least one of the gun rights supporters contacted Andy Parker on Facebook with what Parker saw as a threatening series of messages. This was just the latest of many such messages the Parkers said they have received since their daughter’s murder.
In her remarks, Barbara Parker said, “Because of our work to end gun violence, we have received death threats, been the target of hoaxers, and had heavily armed people surround us and try to intimidate us.”
“This has been our lives over the past 4 years,” Andy Parker said.
Kim Barto Meeks is a reporter for the Martinsville Bulletin. She can be reached at 276-638-8801.