Gun-Lobby Politicians Enable Social Media Killers

Updated | On Sunday my wife Barbara, my son Drew, my daughter Alison’s boyfriend Chris Hurst and I were at the Virginia Tech campus in Blacksburg, Virginia, for the candlelight vigil marking the 10th anniversary of what is now the second worst mass shooting in American history. Sadly, Orlando passed it for the No. 1 spot last year.

After my daughter Alison’s shooter posted a video of her murder on Twitter, I feared there would be a copycat incident. It wasn’t a case of if, but when.

Related: Guns in America: NRA boosts national reciprocity push

It recalled the darkly satirical movie, Network. When I first saw it, it seemed so dystopian and far-fetched. Howard Beale, the anchorman, gets assassinated on live television because of poor ratings. I couldn’t imagine it would ever happen (except maybe on Fox News), but now thanks to social media—as we’ve learned again through the disgusting killing of Robert Godwin in Cleveland—murder has become a vehicle for insane notoriety.

Sadly, for all the good Facebook can do, we now see its potential to turn mentally unstable killers into instant celebrities. They now have their own network to make them reality TV stars—just like the one in the White House.

0421_Social_media_murders_01 The author attended a vigil at Virginia Tech on Sunday to mark the 10th anniversary of a gunman killing 32 people on the campus in Blacksburg, Virginia, on April 16, 2007. Andy Parker

Shut down instant video postings on Facebook? Downplay mass shootings, or just shootings in general? No, that isn’t going to happen. The press is naturally going to flock to these events like moths to flame. My hope is that Americans don’t become totally desensitized to the ceaseless slaughter that costs 90 lives in the country every day. Unfortunately, twisted souls are going to do evil things using available avenues, no matter what we do. But as I’ve written many times, there are things we can do to save lives.

One of the few bills Congress passed in the new session, on a party-line vote, was a reversal of President Obama’s executive order barring those deemed mentally incapable of handling their own affairs from buying guns. 

This is the hypocrisy of the NRA-controlled Republican Congress. When confronted with the proliferation of gun violence, their response has historically been, “It’s not a gun issue, it’s a mental health issue.” They’re half right—it’s both. Yet they do their master’s bidding because, hey, it’s more gun sales. And by the way, let’s keep those potential terrorists on the no-fly list purchasing at the flea market gun shows, too!

We’re never going to entirely stop that crazy man with a gun who wants to kill someone on a live feed. We must hold the paid NRA politicians accountable. No, they didn’t pull the trigger, but along with their President Trump, who next week will bask in the frothing adulation of 80,000 NRA faithful attending their annual conference, they perpetuate the carnage. 

Andy Parker is the father of Virginia journalist Alison Parker, who was fatally shot on live TV in August 2015.

This post was updated to correct an erroneous assertion about the boundaries of Virginia's Sixth Congressional District, represented by Congressman Bob Goodlatte.

Join the Discussion