... Mr. Read’s mind, after the mass shooting in Oregon, was on the first of his six children, his daughter Mary, murdered at age 19 in the 2007 campus massacre at Virginia Tech. His blue eyes rimmed with red, he drew a large circle in the air with his hands, in the shape of a giant hole.And it's having little to no effect, even in Read's home state of Virginia, despite the horror of the Virginia Tech massacre:
“Mary’s a hole,” he said. Life goes on, with Boy Scouts and swim practice and homework, but “everything else flows around” the hole, “a space that doesn’t close up.”
... Mr. Read has sought to fill that hole through advocacy, in his case by pushing for tougher gun safety laws.
... In the years since his daughter’s death, Mr. Read, 53, has given interviews (“The Oprah Winfrey Show” showed up just days after Mary died), spoken at Hollywood fund-raisers for gun control advocacy groups, addressed legislatures in states as far away as Montana and knocked on more lawmakers’ doors than he can count.
Tim Kaine, a Democrat who was governor at the time of the Tech shooting and is now a United States senator, “thought for certain,” he said, that the massacre would spur action. He thought his legislature would expand background checks, now required only for those who buy guns from federally licensed arms dealers, to all gun sales. So did Mr. Read.Read, as the story makes clear, acts through traditional channels -- lobbying legislators, working with gun control groups, speaking out in public. He's confronted gun advocates, but in a polite way -- and that had no effect either:
Instead, Mr. Kaine made other changes. He used his executive powers to require mental health records to be entered into the background check database for gun buyers, signed legislation requiring colleges to have safety plans and increased funding for mental health services.
“There was only one thing I was not able to do,” he said. “The punch line is: I was not able to get my legislature to even seriously contemplate any improvements to Virginia’s gun laws.”
Mr. Read’s advocacy began in May 2007, four weeks after he buried his daughter, when he learned the Virginia Citizens Defense League, a gun rights group whose president boasts it is “to the right of the N.R.A.,” planned to raffle off firearms at a government building just miles from his home.Yes -- Read, Samaha, and a few other protesters stood outside, greatly outnumbered by the gleeful capacity crowd inside, where a Para-Ordnance pistol and a Varmint Stalker rifle were given away.
Incensed, he called another Virginia Tech father, Joseph Samaha, a commercial real estate broker whose daughter, an accomplished 18-year-old dancer named Reema, had been killed in the same French class as Mary. They decided to stand outside in silent protest, holding photographs of their beautiful, dark-haired, murdered daughters.
I don't know if anything can change the balance of power in this debate. But I wonder what would happen if gun control advocates tried the kind of nonviolent protest -- confrontational nonviolent protest -- that was a key tactic of the civil rights movement in the Martin Luther King era.
I'm talking about protesters physically getting into spaces where gun advocates congregate, and bearing nonviolent witness the way civil rights protesters did at lunch counters and other public accommodations.
This would be very, very dangerous. The protesters would have to be unwilling to yield even if spat on or struck or beaten bloody. They'd face a very real risk of being shot. But that's the point: What nonviolent civil rights protesters drew attention to was the savagery and hatred of the segregationists. I look at the gun mobs these days and I see the same savagery, the same rage, the same lack of common human decency.
I don't think most of America sees that. Despite a rash of massacres in recent years, public opinion of the NRA has been consistently favorable, and support for the gunners' agenda is increasing.
Would this work? I don't know. Probably not. But what gun control advocates are doing now isn't working.