This morning, a gunman walked up to a news crew from the local broadcast station WDBJ7 in Moneta, VA. Two members of the news team, reporter Alison Parker, 24, and cameraman Adam Ward, 27, were shot and killed at close range while interviewing Vicki Gardner of the Smith Mountain Lake Regional Chamber of Commerce around 6:45 a.m. on Wednesday, August 26. Gardner was also shot and was rushed to the hospital for emergency surgery. Reports say she is recovering.
The gunman, a former employee of WDBJ7, Vester Lee Flanigan, also known as Bryce Williams, shot himself on I-66 in Faquier County, according to state police. He was late reported dead from hose self-inflicted wounds.
6:45 a.m.–Most of us were waking up at that hour, preparing for our days and catching the morning report from our local news stations. Local news stations like WDBJ7, who sent out their crews to cover the latest topics for the morning broadcast. But for these two young reporters, their day was already half over. I’m sure they were expecting a typical day—show up to work, do a simple piece with the Chamber of Commerce, cover a few other small reports, sign off and head home to go about their days. Newsweek reported that Ward had a job interview after his shift, a step up to the career he was still just starting. These two had so much to look forward to, so much left to give to this world. And in an instant, all that was gone.
These types of stories have become far too frequent in the web of today’s news. Without delving into the subtopics of race, poverty, etc. that also seem to haunt shootings, the story is always the same: the victims’ lives are cut short because the gunman decided the only way to be heard was to open fire. We’ve seen this happen countless times—in schools, in theaters, in places we once thought were safe. Ten years ago, it was unheard of to have your bags checked before entering a movie theater to enjoy a film. Now, kids smuggling in candy to the theater is the least of their worries.
But where do we draw the line? At what point will we acknowledge that gun control in this country is the problem?
In the wake of the most recent shooting, I took to Twitter to see what discussions arose from this tragedy. First, the sheer professionalism of the WDBJ7 staff shined through—with tweets remembering their colleagues, coupled with the live broadcast focused on the slain reporters’ lives and careers, the station kept their focus on the positive, while still providing updates on the hunt for the shooter. My heart broke watching the anchors talk about their colleagues, who they interacted with only hours before. You could sense that as soon as their job was done for the day, the only thing left to do was step off camera and cry. And for the loved ones of the victims—a boyfriend, a fiancée, parents, siblings, friends—their lives will never be the same.
As the day progressed, the back and forth about gun laws started to pick up. Presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton called for gun reform, tweeting: “Heartbroken and angry. We must act to stop gun violence, and we cannot wait any longer. Praying for the victims’ families in Virginia.” Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe echoed these sentiments, saying it’s time again to address laws against gun violence.
I feel that each time a shooting occurs (something that is far more frequent now than in the past), the same arguments come out. The anti-gun side argues for stricter laws, while the pro-gun advocates say that we just need to prevent killers from getting their hands on guns. But what constitutes a ‘killer’? How can we prevent ‘killers’ from getting their hands on guns when many are not yet killers? Isn’t the soul purpose for a gun is to kill? What other practical use does it have? The reality isn’t some liberal conspiracy to take away your guns—it’s that our current system isn’t working, and it’s time for change.
I will admit that if I was in charge, there would be extremely strict requirements over gun ownership. In fact, I’d like to see a world where civilians had no need for guns, but I also know that that scenario would never happen—in a government base off balance, there is always room for compromise, even with the issues you feel strongest about. That’s why gun control needs to remain at the top of our list, because the current system just isn’t working. How many more innocent lives must we lose before we make a lasting change?