The last time I saw my father, I was in my last year at the University of Virginia. It was spring break and I had the flu. He drove 268 miles round trip to come get me. I don’t remember much of the ride home, but I do remember my time on the living room sofa. He dubbed me “The Plague” and teased me mercilessly. And, sick though I was, I loved it. I was with the people I love best — my mum, my sister, my dad. I had no idea that those moments would be my last moments with him.
Ten years ago this week, my family, along with 31 others, received the most horrific news: Our loved ones were shot and killed at Virginia Tech. My father, G.V. Loganathan, was a professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering. He was a researcher, teacher, mentor, colleague and friend. For us, though, he was so much more: He was our heart. We would have followed him anywhere.
His murder left us with a gaping hole. Nothing ever fills it. But even in death, my father continues to push me to action. His murder opened my eyes to a world shared by millions of Americans: one where 90 Americans are killed and hundreds more are injured every day because of senseless gun violence.
The shooter at Virginia Tech had a mental-health history that should have prohibited him from possessing firearms. Because his mental-health records were not reported to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, he was able to pass a background check and buy the guns he used on April 16. This senselessness revealed fatal gaps in mental-health reporting laws across the country. In 2008, Virginia took steps to improve its mental-health reporting. It is now one of the best-performing states in the country. Other states have followed suit.
After the shooting, I realized I needed to address our nation’s weak gun laws. I joined a movement of Americans who refuse to let the National Rifle Association have the field to itself. As the extremist leadership of the NRA continues to back dangerous legislation in Congress and in statehouses, gun-safety advocates speak out. They show up at statehouses and work hard to defeat dangerous gun bills while supporting common-sense gun-safety legislation. They speak directly to their legislators.
And legislators are listening.
Recently, hundreds of committed gun-safety advocates and gun-violence survivors helped defeat a gun bill in the Virginia legislature that would have dismantled Virginia’s concealed-carry permitting requirements for firearms, making it easy for those with no firearms safety training or permit to carry hidden, loaded handguns in public.
It’s heartening to see such progress, but it could be undermined. Days after the Virginia legislature adjourned, gun-lobby-backed legislators in Congress introduced a bill known as “Concealed Carry Reciprocity.” This policy would gut our state laws and force us to accept the weakest possible standards in their place. It would force Virginia to let people from other states carry concealed guns in our streets, essentially voiding our own gun laws. We would even have to let people with no permit carry guns in public. Virginia just made the smart choice to keep its permit system in place. Why would Congress force such a chaotic and dangerous policy on us?
Gun-violence survivors and gun-safety advocates are no longer sitting on the sidelines. The gun lobby can’t push its dangerous agenda without opposition. I’m proud to work with my fellow advocates to fight such legislation.
In the long run, we will win this fight for life and defeat the gun lobby. It will be a long fight, but if there’s one thing my father taught me, it’s that you fight for what is right. After all, fighting to prevent gun violence is the least we can do for our loved ones.