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Parents of Slain Roanoke Reporter Attend State Senate Candidate Forum 

Gun control among issues discussed in 10th District campaign.

click to enlarge Andy and Barbara Parker attend a 10th District Senate race forum at VCU. The couple travels across the state to support legislators in favor of tougher gun laws.

Scott Elmquist

Andy and Barbara Parker attend a 10th District Senate race forum at VCU. The couple travels across the state to support legislators in favor of tougher gun laws.

The parents of slain Roanoke journalist Alison Parker have quit their jobs to travel across Virginia to support state senate candidates in favor of gun control.

Barbara and Andy Parker heard what candidates had to say about guns last night during a 10th Senate District forum at Virginia Commonwealth University. The event was more than three hours away from their home in Collinsville.

Barbara enthusiastically passed out pins that read “Whatever it takes” in black letters. The words were emblazoned on a television color test bar background -- a nod to her daughter's job as a reporter at WDBJ-TV 7. Andy took this message to the national level during a September rally on Capitol Hill, when he urged legislators to pass any laws necessary to curb gun violence.

After the event, the couple spoke with people about a need for tougher gun regulations. Barbara says that they are in favor of candidates who offer “common sense solutions” such as universal background checks.

“We can’t understand why people have such a problem with [universal background checks]. You have to have a license to drive a car, you have to have it registered,” she says. “Why do they have such a problem having something that can kill you registered?”

She calls the idea of being permitted to carry a gun on campus “horrifying.”

Democratic candidate Dan Gecker stood out to the couple as someone who could tighten restrictions on gun ownership. Gecker advocated for background checks and prohibiting those convicted for domestic abuse and with protective orders from owning guns. He said that teachers and pediatricians need to have better training to recognize signs of emotional instability in children, which may lead to gun violence.

Barbara was wary of Republican candidate Glen Sturtevant because of his grade A rating from the National Rifle Association. She said that he danced around an audience question concerning proposed solutions for gun violence.

Sturtevant mentioned that his brother was a student at Virginia Tech and his father worked at the Washington Navy Yard during the shootings at both places.

“My heart really breaks for the families impacted by these tragedies," he said, "which is why I will always fight for the funding and support that law enforcement and public safety need to enforce our state and federal gun laws in Virginia."

Sturtevant also said he was in support of increased mental health services to curb gun violence.

Independent candidate Marleen Durfee said that she supports the Second Amendment but is “in support of reasonable gun measures to be sure that we are safe in society.”

“We need to understand what is happening on campuses today,” she said.

Libertarian candidate Carl Loser said that he was pro concealed carry on campus. Loser stated that students who were former military could “handle situations like [potential gun violence] on campus effectively.”

Some other topics at the VCU and Virginia 21 sponsored forum included transportation, health care, college tuition and campus sexual assault. College tuition dominated the night for the mostly millennial audience.

McDurfee said that she was in favor of two to three years of free community college for students with a grade point average of 3.5 or higher. Gecker said that there needed to be a stable funding source or higher education and that legislators should make it a higher priority. Sturtevant said that tuition increases should be limited or eliminated if possible during a student’s four-year term in college. Loser said that he was in favor of more job training in the trades but not of increasing state incentives for college students.

The 10th Senate District covers all of Powhatan and parts of Richmond and Chesterfield County. The seat is held by long-time incumbent Republican John Watkins. The candidate who wins the November contest is likely to determine which party runs the state Senate, which is Republican controlled.

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