My daughter was killed by a shooter. None of us want Republicans’ thoughts and prayers

There are clear, proven ways we can change gun laws and social media laws to prevent these kinds of tragedies. I’m tired of being told ‘now isn’t the time’ to talk about them

Andy Parker
Tuesday 05 July 2022 17:18 BST
Texas School Shooting
Texas School Shooting (Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

When I heard about the Fourth of July mass shooting in Highland Park, Illinois, I had an immediate reaction.

We now know that the gun used in the shooting, which targeted families watching a parade, was legally obtained. The person of interest who is being held by police in connection to the shooting “left a long trail of violent online imagery” behind him.

Our country is standing at the confluence of what I call “guns and Google”: the evil symbiotic relationship between gun violence and social media. Posting violent content and murder on social media is not free speech — it is undermining the very fabric of our society. It is savagery. The shooter in Uvalde, Texas, frequently posted online threats and plans to kidnap, rape, or kill, and finally to “shoot his grandmother and kill school children” and was ignored because those who saw the posts said that it was just “how online is”. The families of those killed in Buffalo, New York, have to live with the fact that the last moments of their loved ones were shared on Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube.

Social media abuse and gun violence are inextricably linked, from the ability to illegally purchase firearms to the radicalization of the shooters.

For years I’ve maintained that Facebook and Google profit from the video of my daughter Alison Parker’s televised murder in 2015 and violate what they advertise to the public — that they don’t allow violent content on their platforms. Both companies have denied it, but we know better. When someone with insider knowledge, like Frances Haugen, confirms it — as she did in her 2021 Senate testimony — it’s difficult to seriously argue the other side. Social media will continue its malpractice because until Congress acts, they have complete immunity from any liability.

The fight for sensible gun legislation has been thwarted by Republican lawmakers in the pockets of the gun lobby — all cowards who only offer the usual “thought and prayers”, or tell the public that “now is not the time to talk about gun control”. When there were no gun safety laws passed after Sandy Hook, we realized that these people are willing to sacrifice everyone for their ideology. They consider our children collateral damage and truly do not care about the carnage.

Even in the face of seemingly non-stop mass shootings — the latest in Tulsa this morning, at a hospital campus — so many members of the GOP turn a blind eye and maintain that any reasonable gun legislation is tantamount to “taking away the rights of law-abiding citizens to defend themselves”. That is a completely ridiculous assertion, and those who say it need to be voted out of office before it’s too late.

If now isn’t a time for a call to action, there never will be one. Over the years, I’ve beseeched Congress to get off their asses and do something to address the malevolence. The overwhelming majority of Americans agree. And I’m not just talking in the vague language of general activism. I have recommendations based on sound research and global policy.

On guns, it’s simple: Implement universal background checks; pass national red flag laws; ban the sale of assault-style weapons and high-capacity magazines.

On social media, first and foremost, we need to reform Section 230(c)(1). It should be amended so that it reserves immunity for platforms acting like responsible guardians of our privacy, but if those platforms don’t take reasonable steps to prevent unlawful uses of service that create harm to others, they don’t get immunity. We also need to incentivize these online platforms to proactively tackle illegality, hate speech, bullying, radicalization and violent content, rather than encouraging it.

Concurrently, we can support two pieces of antitrust legislation that would rein in these tech giants. S.2992, the American Innovation and Choice Online Act, and S.2710, the Open App Markets Act, would ban Facebook and Google, as well as Amazon and Apple, from acting like gatekeepers of information and competition. It’s the first major action we can take to show these companies that we will not tolerate their egregious behavior.

These proposals are the foundations for my new political action committee, Andy’s Fight. I formed it in the aftermath of my aborted Congressional bid. I can’t be in Congress fighting for these ideas, but I can help elect candidates who will commit to the reforms I’ve outlined. The safety and the social fabric of our country depend on it. I ask you to join my fight — for me, for your family, and for Alison.

This article was originally published after the mass shooting in Buffalo, NY and edited after the shooting in Highland Park, IL on July 5th, 2022

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