Fourteen-year-old Jaime Guttenberg was beautiful and intelligent. She commanded a room, whether she was dancing or dazzling her audience with her vibrant energy and empathetic, kind and mature nature.
“She had a voice that needed to be heard,” says her father, Fred Guttenberg, a Long Island native who has lived in Florida since 1989.
But on February 14, 2018, Jaime Guttenberg — along with 16 other students and staff of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida — lost her life to a 19-year-old gunman who opened fire with a semi-automatic rifle, leaving behind her father, mother Jennifer, older brother Jesse, and their beloved golden doodle pups Charli and Cooper.
Almost immediately following the shooting, Mr. Guttenberg thrust himself into a mission to improve gun safety throughout the United States, essentially becoming a voice for his daughter and every other parent who has lost a child to a senseless and seemingly preventable tragedy.
In 2016, 38,658 persons died from firearm-related injuries in the United States, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Guns were used in 87 percent of homicides involving youth.
LI is not immune. In 2018, more than 30 percent of violent crimes in Nassau and Suffolk Counties combined were related to firearms, according to the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services.
“I want to do everything I can to lower the gun violence death rates, so we are stopping these things and saving lives,” Guttenberg says. “I don’t get my daughter back, but I need to be a part of making sure that other parents don’t go through what my family is going through.”
Jaime was very close with her parents, especially her mother. Their family was very “tight.” Siblings Jesse and Jaime “laughed a lot,” Guttenberg recalls.
“The hardest part is not hearing them laugh in the back seat,” he says.
Jaime also had big plans.
“She was going to be a pediatric physical therapist,” he says. “Her dream was to help a kid walk for the first time. She was just an unbelievable kid and there isn’t a second I don’t think about her and miss her.”
Advocating for gun safety has become a priority for Guttenberg and a way to work through his grief. Just days following his daughter’s death, Guttenberg faced U.S. Sen. March Rubio (R-Florida) at a CNN Town Hall meeting on February 21.
“Unfortunately, there has been way too much gun violence in this country,” Guttenberg asserts. “I always felt the reaction was way too polite, way too comfortable, and way too temporary.”
After his daughter’s passing, Guttenberg established two organizations: Orange Ribbons (www.orangeribbonsforjaime.org), a nonprofit foundation aimed to honor his daughter and all her life’s passions, including anti-bullying programs and the Humane Society; and Orange Ribbons For Gun Safety, a nonprofit that advocates for gun safety reforms and candidates who will pursue gun safety.
Guttenberg was instrumental in introducing Jaime’s Law, to the House and Senate.
“We have to deal with a dysfunctional and broken background check system,” he says.
The law would require universal background checks on the sale of ammunition. Restricting the age to purchase weapons or ammunition to individuals ages 21 and older is critical, Guttenberg says.
“We don’t let these kids drink until they are 21,” he says. “We shouldn’t let them buy weapons.”
Enforce red flag laws, Guttenberg says.
“Give law enforcement the ability to remove weapons from those that are a known threat to themselves or someone else—or a certified domestic abuser, because they have already shown they are violent,” he says.
And finally, “we need to allow for the CDC to do funding and study of gun violence,” Guttenberg says. “We need to limit magazine capacity.”
None of the above proposals violate the second amendment, Guttenberg notes.
“It’s all about lowering the gun violence death rate, which is about 40,000 per year,” he says. “This is my life mission.”