An extraordinary meeting took place in an undisclosed location. It was an unlikely pairing of two acutely grieving fathers; one whose son murdered the other.
Peter Rodger, the filmmaker father of 22-year-old Elliot Rodgers, met with Richard Martinez, a defense attorney. Martinez’ son, Christopher Michaels-Martinez, 20, was killed by the younger Rodger in the deadly rampage through the college town of Isla Vista just over a week ago.
Police say Rodger killed six people between the ages of 19 and 22 May 23 after years of rejection and jealousy. He was later found dead in his car from a gunshot wound to the head.
“I have met with Peter Rodger and we plan to work together so other families such as ours will not suffer as ours have,” Martinez told CNN. “This was a private conversation between grieving fathers who’ve reached common ground.”
Asked about details, Martinez said only: “We’ve got a plan and when we’re ready, we‘ll let you know.”
One can only imagine the courage it took for both men to meet face to face. For the father of a killer, grappling with the agony of being unable to have prevented his son’s horrific acts, to then reach out to his son’s murder victims, is nothing short of courageous. And too, for the father of a son brutally and randomly murdered — Chris was in a deli while ordering a sandwich when he was gunned down — to will away, if not, rise above his surely justified anger was equally courageous.
Days after the shooting, another grieving father, Mark Barden, the father of 7-year-old Daniel Barden, who was fatally shot by Adam Lanza at the Newtown, Connecticut, shooting, posted an open letter to Richard Martinez on the Sandy Hook Promise Facebook page.
The letter read, in part :
Dear Richard Martinez,
We have not met, but you are now part of our extended family. It is not a family we chose, but a family born from the horrible circumstance of losing a child to gun violence — one that’s only growing each day … It has helped me, and some of the other family members who lost children and family at Sandy Hook Elementary, to come together and advocate for common sense solutions to expanding programs for mental wellness and gun safety solutions. You will find your own path down this difficult road. But know that we are here for you and all of you who have been touched by this tragedy. Together we can and will build a safer world for all our children.”
Maybe a glimmer of hope is in the wings. If good can come out of these tragedies (Is that even the right word for these mass shootings? Are they massacres? Rampages? Atrocities?) there was some reason to think it might come from these parents.
After all, many gave up after the failure of Congress to enact stricter gun legislation after Sandy Hook. Little wonder. The gun lobby persevered even in the smiling faces of 20 pigtailed and missing-two-front-teeth kindergartners.
For his part, Martinez couldn’t contain himself. Just a day after his son was killed, he condemned “craven” and “irresponsible” politicians. “You talk about gun rights,” he cried. ”What about Chris’s right to live?”
Instead of retreating into their own private anguish, Rodger’s parents, Peter Rodger and Li Chin, who divorced in 1999, issued a statement. “We are crying in pain for the victims and their families. It breaks our hearts on a level we didn’t think possible … It is now our responsibility to do everything we can to help avoid this happening to any other family. Not only to avoid more innocence destroyed, but also to identify and deal with the mental issues that drove our son to do what he did.”
Sensing a groundswell, Martinez issued a challenge: “Today, I’m going to ask every person I can find to send a postcard to every politician they can think of with three words on it: ‘Not one more.’ ” The advocacy group Everytown for Gun Safety put Martinez’s call into action, launching a postcard campaign that allows people to automatically send postcards with the words Not one more. to their elected official. Since the campaign launched last week, more than 500,000 Americans have signed up to send more than 2 million postcards.
In March, the New Yorker published a lengthy interview with Adam Lanza’s father, Peter Lanza. While Lanza had offered to meet with victim’s families and two had taken up his offer, it was the first media access Peter Lanza had granted since the December 2012 school massacre.
Peter Lanza told writer Andrew Solomon: “I want people to be afraid of the fact that this could happen to them.”