National News

Parkland dad reflects on Harris tour of Stoneman Douglas site

todayApril 20, 2024


ABC News

(PARKLAND, Fla.) — Last month, Vice President Kamala Harris toured Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, site of a 2018 mass shooting, with families of the 17 victims of the massacre and vowed to do more to curb gun violence.

Fred Guttenberg, who lost his daughter Jaime in the shooting, was one of the parents who pushed for elected officials to take the tour and meet with the families about tackling gun violence.

He spoke with ABC News’ Rachel Scott shortly after the visit.

ABC NEWS LIVE: I do want to start with you telling me about your push to get the vice president here. Where did that come from?

FRED GUTTENBERG: I guess about 10 months ago, when the building was turned over from the state attorney to the school district, one of the other dads, Max Schachter, had this idea of walking through political people to see what’s happening in that building, or what happened in that building.

The blood is still there, the DNA is still there. The shards of glass are still there, the books and all the coursework, it’s still out there on the desks as if the kids just went out for a fire drill. It’s all still there. And we wanted to walk people through so that they could receive the lessons of why something like this happened. And a day of mass carnage, leading to 17 dead and 17 injured, but not only why it happened [but also] what kinds of things can we do to stop the next one.

And I reached out to the Office of Gun Violence Prevention folks, which are an amazing group of people, and the vice president’s office, and I told them what we were doing. And I said, “I’d really like you all to come.”

This was scheduled to be a three-hour day. She was here, not three hours, [but] almost five.

Because she wanted to know about those we lost. She wanted to know about the work that we’re doing.

Today was an incredibly consequential, meaningful day.

ABC NEWS LIVE: You told me that this building is going to be demolished.


ABC NEWS LIVE: And that this was sort of the final chapter.

GUTTENBERG: The final lesson.

ABC NEWS LIVE: The final lesson.


The vice president can now go forward and talk specifically about what she saw in this building and relate it to what she needs to do [and] what we need to do as a country. Whether it’s on gun safety policy, whether it’s on school construction, any of those things. She saw it today. She can talk about it now.

ABC NEWS LIVE: What do you believe needs to be done? We know that the president signed the most comprehensive gun safety legislation into law in decades. But still, that did not go as far as the president and the vice president were hoping.

GUTTENBERG: I wish we could have gone further. And I hope people vote in the next election to ensure we get to go further. But it went, and it got a lot of things done. I’ll give you this. I’ll just tell you this, for the first time in months, the homicide rate related to gun violence, for the first time in years, is trending down. I was just at the FBI facility in West Virginia, where they conduct threat assessment and background checks last month. And they’re doing the new enhanced under 21 background checks which are a part of that legislation. And they were talking about the abundance of young people now that they’ve been able to stop from getting a weapon because of that new enhanced under-21 background check.

Red flag laws save lives. Let me be clear, had a red flag law been in place in Florida before February 14, 2018, in all likelihood, this shooting never happens. Had a red flag law been in place before February 14, 2018, I’d be visiting my daughter at the University of Florida, not at a cemetery.

ABC NEWS LIVE: I do want to ask you about your daughter and just what we should know about her and how you have been able to cope with the loss of a daughter so young.

GUTTENBERG: My daughter will forever be the toughest person I ever knew. And if you saw the way she died on the third floor, running down the hallway for her life, because she got locked out of a room – knowing there was a shooter at her back with an AR-15. And she made it to within 1 second of her life, turning into the stairwell.

It does not surprise me that she was fighting for her life that way. She’s the toughest person I’ve ever known. I get through every day because she stands on my shoulders pushing me forward. I get through every day because I know no matter how hard this fight is, I will never ever, ever have anything as hard as what she did running down that hallway.

I am her voice now. My daughter was 14 when she was killed. Forever 14. She should be 20 now.

And I have a dream now of ending gun violence in America and I’m dedicating my life to it.

ABC NEWS LIVE: You’ve been through that building. You’ve walked that hall. What was that like for you?

GUTTENBERG: When you walk through it, you see the blood of the victims still there. You see DNA of the victims. It’s still there.

I sat in the spot where my daughter took her last breath. And for me, it’s something I’ll never ever get over, I’ll never comprehend how it was possible. I’ll never forgive those who failed to deal with the reality of gun violence, because we were listening to too many of the wrong people. And I will do everything I can to ensure we fire every single elected person who continues to fail on this issue. All I want to do is stop the next one.

ABC NEWS LIVE: We are now in a critical election year. What do you want Americans to know heading into this election year?

GUTTENBERG: What I want America to know is there is only one president and vice presidential candidate – they’re the ones running for re-election, President [Joe] Biden and Vice President Harris, who stand for doing something about gun violence

So here’s what I want America to know. This is not an election to sit home. If you’re any of the many people across this country who think I’m gonna stay home on my couch, I don’t need to vote. Yes, you do. Let me be clear: If there’s anybody in your life that you love, and because of that, you want to reduce gun violence, you know how to vote and you know you need to vote.

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