The Intelligencer: Father of Parkland victim speaks at gun safety rally in New Hope

Father of Parkland victim speaks at gun safety rally in New Hope

Chris English | Oct. 9, 2018

Fred Guttenberg is speaking at various places across the country about gun-law reform after losing his daughter Jaime in the shootings at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

After losing his daughter in the shootings at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, on Feb. 14, Fred Guttenberg has joined the call for stronger gun laws.

“I am here as the voice of my daughter and the voice of all others who have lost their lives to gun violence,” Guttenberg said Tuesday night during a gun safety rally at New Hope-Solebury High School that also included Democratic candidates Scott Wallace and Steve Santarsiero.

Guttenberg, who like others at the rally called for measures such as universal background checks and a ban on assault weapons, urged the 200 people in attendance to get out on election day next month and elect people who will enact meaningful gun law reform.

Jaime Guttenberg, a freshman, was one of 17 killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas by Nikolas Cruz.

“This was preventable and it is fixable,” Guttenberg said at the rally. “Because of what happened to Jaime, I have put my voice into this movement. My voice joined the movement the day my daughter died and it will never leave.”

Guttenberg, who declined to say whether he is a Democrat even though he endorsed Wallace at the rally, said he always will be haunted by memories of that Valentine’s Day.

“The last time I saw my daughter, I don’t remember if I told her I loved her,” he said. “Jaime was hit by a shot in the spine just before she could duck into a stairwell for cover, so I don’t know if she died instantly or suffered.

“I blame the (National Rifle Association) for holding our legislators hostage. I have taken on the NRA. They have become my pastime, going after them every day. We will break that lobby. We will make them irrelevant.”

Answering questions for the media after the rally, Guttenberg called the Parkland shootings “a failure on every level” and added that gun laws need to be strengthened both on the state and national level.

“This killer took my daughter, but Florida law didn’t give anyone the ability to do anything about it,” he said.

Wallace, who is running against Republican incumbent Brian Fitzpatrick for Congress in the 1st District, agreed voters need to elect people such as himself who will vote for gun laws that will make a real difference.

“With the current Congress, nothing is going to happen,” Wallace said. “It is incapable of doing anything about guns. Students today have come of age when death by guns is commonplace, and yet they are the ones who know it doesn’t have to be this way. I will fight along with them to bring about some common sense gun safety laws.”

Fitzpatrick has said he favors raising the legal age for purchasing semiautomatic rifles to 21, as well as allowing families the ability to seek a temporary gun violence prevention order for a relative who poses a threat to themselves or others.

The congressman also has said he supports expanded background checks, a prohibition on bump stocks, a national instant background check system and other measures designed to curb gun violence.

Council Rock High School South student Olivia Mitchell, one of the leaders of a group called Bucks Students for Action, said at Tuesday’s rally that lawmakers at both the state and national levels aren’t doing enough about gun safety, and there needs to be changes including the election of candidates like Wallace and Santarsiero.

″(Lawmakers) favor short-term Band-aid acts like armed guards and metal detectors in schools,” Olivia said. “They wait for a killer to walk into a school rather than make sure that killer does not get a gun in the first place.”

Santarsiero, a former state representative who is running against state Rep. Marguerite Quinn, R-143, for the state senate seat in the 10th district, said it was appropriate that Tuesday night’s rally was held at a school.

“Schools in this country, tragically, have become the symbol for the gun violence epidemic,” Santarsiero said. “We can’t avoid the issue any longer. We have to hold every person in office and running for office accountable for where they stand on this issue.”

Electing candidates such as himself and Wallace will bring “real change and legislation that doesn’t trample on anyone’s rights but provides better protection for our country,” Santarsiero said.

Quinn has introduced gun safety legislation that should reach Gov. Tom Wolf’s office soon. Among other provisions, it shortens the window gun owners convicted of misdemeanor domestic violence crimes have to relinquish their weapons from 60 days to 24 hours.

Quinn has previously said the legislation, expected to be signed by Wolf, “seeks a responsible but necessary balance in maintaining Second Amendment rights while ensuring that those who have demonstrated violence against their loved ones shouldn’t have them (guns).”

In a previous response to the proposed law, Santarsiero said it “does the bare minimum to address this serious public safety issue.”