Fred Guttenberg has no faith in politicians’ ability to stand up to the NRA. That’s why he has decided if anything is going to be done about guns in the United States, he has to do it himself.
On February 14th, his daughter Jaime was murdered in her high school hallway, in Parkland, Florida. The lovely and precocious 14-year-old girl was running away from the shooter when a bullet struck her in the back and fatally severed her spinal cord.
Soon after Guttenberg met with his Republican senator Marco Rubio, who has taken large amounts of money from the NRA. He looked Rubio in the eye and told him that his response (and Trump’s response) had been “pathetically weak.” He believes that it is time for politicians to admit that guns are a major problem, and to take meaningful, concrete steps to prevent future mass murders.
Guttenberg wants to ban assault weapons such as the one used to kill his daughter, but this is NOT his top priority at this time.
“I don’t think it will ever happen in this environment,” he said. “As much as I would like to see that, I’m interested in taking steps to start dealing with the safety issue in a pragmatic way.”
His gun control priorities are:
- raising the age to buy guns – young people can buy military-style assault rifles before they are legally allowed to buy alcohol;
- adding a reasonable waiting period before someone can buy a gun;
- ensuring an effective background check system (without loopholes); and
- a ban on the sale of high-capacity ammunition clips and bump stocks.
Guttenberg believes guns should be treated in some ways like cars, with licensing requirements, including registration and insurance. This seemingly rational approach was considered to be a policy that even Democrats (including Obama) believed was “too extreme” and so they did not pursue it.
Guttenberg said that was ridiculous. “Anyone who says there’s no support for gun legislation that’s as minimal as that should be fired. That’s what I think.”
He promises to keep fighting for what he now believes must be a top priority for our nation. “The only time I don’t think about my daughter and just want to cry, to be honest, is when I’m busy doing this,” Guttenberg said. “At least I feel like I’m doing something to honor her memory.”
The students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas have organized a “March For Our Lives” event in Washington, D.C. on March 24 with hundreds of thousands expected to attend. In addition, over 500 other marches will be held around the United States and the entire world. Millions of people will be demanding new laws that attempt to end gun violence and mass murders.
The activism from his daughter’s Stoneman Douglas classmates, and from kids all over the country, gives Guttenberg hope. Meanwhile, he said, he’s not going to stop what he’s doing.
“I’m not going away,” he said.
I am a lifelong Democrat with a passion for social justice and progressive issues. I have degrees in writing, economics and law from the University of Iowa.