A Father's Love and the Fight for Real Solutions

A Father's Love and the Fight for Real Solutions
AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin

The pain and sorrow that comes with losing a child is something I wish no parent ever had to go through. As writer Jay Neugeboren wrote in An Orphan’s Tale almost fifty years ago:


A wife who loses a husband is called a widow.
A husband who loses a wife is called a widower.
A child who loses his parents is called an orphan.
There is no word for a parent who loses a child.
That’s how awful the loss is.

Ryan Petty knows that awfulness all too well. His daughter Alaina was robbed of her life and stolen from her family by a cowardly killer at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in 2018, and life will never be the same for her family and friends. In the years since her senseless murder, Ryan has not only quietly helped other parents who’ve lost children of their own come to grips with their grief and find a way forward out of the darkness, but has made it his mission to ensure the safety and security of kids on campuses across the country; a goal he fervently believes can be accomplished without shredding our right to keep and bear arms.

In a new video released by the National Shooting Sports Foundation, Ryan poignantly shares his love for Alaina, and explains why her death didn’t lead him to believe that banning guns is the answer. It’s a powerful and moving piece, and I’d encourage you to watch and share with others.

“She just wanted to be your friend,” Ryan recalls in the video.

We’d constantly be after her about her phone, put your phone down and do your homework, whatever. But it was her friends who were reaching out to her; those who were having a bad day or maybe having a fight with a friend. Alaina was that person they could contact and they knew that she cared about them and she would take care of them. It was really wonderful to watch as a father, to watch her grow up. Unfortunately, I won’t get to see her grow up and become the person that I know she would have been. I’m just grateful that I did get to have her in my home for fourteen years and get to learn everything that I could from her.


Ryan adds that one of the things Alaina imparted on him was her love of freedom. In the video, we see Alaina in her JROTC uniform as Ryan remembers the dad and daughter time the two spent at a local range.

“The thought of her name being used to infringe upon the rights of any other citizen is just more than I could bear,” Ryan says. “It was important for me to be able to stand up for her, be her voice, and know that these are values and things that she believes in and would want her father to carry on for her.”

Last October, Newtown Action Alliance co-founder and chairwoman Po Murray infamously and emphatically agreed with the idea that, because Ryan doesn’t support a ban on so-called assault weapons, he must support children being murdered.


I doubt Murray will ever watch the video above, but if she dared to do so she’d see a father’s love for his child on Ryan’s face and hear his sorrow and grief at her death in every word that comes out of his mouth. She’d also hear Ryan explain why his daughter’s murder didn’t cause him to embrace a gun control solution.

“I think where I differ from some other victims is that I believe just as strongly today in the right to keep and bear arms as I did before the tragedy that took Alaina. I know that differs from a lot of families that have a different view and I respect that, but I believe that we should never trade our freedoms for that feeling of safety and security, because it’s a false one.”


It’s not that Ryan didn’t do any soul-searching after Alaina’s death. As he’s discussed with me, he spent a lot of time thinking through various gun control laws, wondering if they could have made a difference before reaching the conclusion that a gun ban wasn’t the answer. As he and I discussed just yesterday on Cam & Co, there were so many failures of government before the Parkland shootings that could have prevented the killer from carrying out his attack; from the repeated visits by sheriff’s deputies to the killer’s home to the FBI ignoring explicit warnings about the killer preparing for his murderous rampage on students and staff.

For some ardent anti-gunners, it will be easier to believe that Ryan is a shill for the gun industry willing to exploit his daughter’s death for whatever reason, but if they watch this video and they’re still convinced that’s the case afterward they’re deluding themselves. I know Ryan; not as well as I’d like but well enough to have seen his character and devotion to his family firsthand. His love for his daughter and his appreciation for our rights are genuine, and despite what folks like Po Murray would have us believe, they do not have to be in conflict with one another. There are real solutions out there that can help prevent these terrible acts from taking place and spare parents the horror and grief that Ryan knows firsthand, and they can comfortably co-exist with all our freedoms, including our right to keep and bear arms.



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