It was less than a year ago that Fred Guttenberg lost his daughter at the hands of a school shooter.
When thinking back to the day of the massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, on February 14, Guttenberg continues to be haunted by the fact his 14-year-old daughter Jamie may have suffered when the bullet ripped through her body.
“A single shot through her spine,” he told a crowd at New Hope-Solebury High School Tuesday evening. “A single shot.”
“You want to know why I’m here today?” he asked. “I don’t know if my daughter suffered. I don’t know if she died instantly. I hope she died instantly … But I have this fear that she didn’t and while she was waiting for help, she was still alive.”
Guttenberg said he is traveling the country and asking for voters to support candidates who back so-called “common sense” gun laws.
The father from Florida told the crowd that he blames the National Rifle Association (NRA) for holding legislators “hostage” and blocking measures that would protect the Second Amendment while also putting tougher regulations on firearms in a hope of preventing more gun violence.
Guttenberg said he endorses Democratic congressional candidate Scott Wallace and state senate candidate Steve Santarsiero due to their support for more regulations on guns.
In a post-event conversation with reporters, Guttenberg said he supports the Second Amendment and even has family who owns firearms. However, he feels there needs to be regulations to prevent shootings like the one that killed his daughter.
His blame is mainly aimed at the NRA, who he said has prevented lawmakers from moving regulation forward, although he recognizes there was a “failure on every level” before and during the Stoneman Douglas High School shooting.
Speaking to the crowd, Guttenberg said he met with incumbent Republican Congressman Brian Fitzpatrick weeks after his daughter was killed and felt he did wasn’t going to push forward the right reforms on a federal level.
Fitzpatrick has been endorsed by Michael Bloomberg’s Everytown For Gun Safety and former Democratic Congresswoman Gabby Giffords’ gun safety organization.
Fitzpatrick has said he supports the rights of gun owners. He has also backed concealed-carry reciprocity, expanding the existing background check system, prohibit the sale or delivery of certain semiautomatic centerfire rifles to individuals under 21, allow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to research gun injury prevention and control, temporarily remove firearms from individuals who appear to pose a danger to those around them, and close the bump stock loophole. The former FBI special agent did vote against concealed-carry reciprocity legislation but only, he has said, due to additional unrelated legislation that was tacked onto it.
Wallace, an NRA member growing up, said that no gun law reform will happen in Washington D.C. if Republicans remain in power.
“With the current Congress, nothing is going to happen,” he told the friendly crowd.
The Buckingham resident also railed against the power over lawmakers that the NRA has in states and nationally.
Wallace said, if elected, he will work to close loopholes, ban assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, outlaw bump stocks, and demand “common sense” gun laws. Also stated he wants biometric locks on every single new gun to prevent them from being used by the wrong person.
“Enough is enough,” Santarsiero said.
The former state representative from Lower Makefield said he supports law-abiding gun owners but has concerns about how powerful the NRA has become, adding that they support gun manufacturers more than gun owners.
In 2015, Santarsiero introduced legislation in Harrisburg to close a “loophole” that allows the purchase of long guns during private sales ineligible for background checks and also ban persons on the national terrorism watch list and no-fly list from purchasing firearms legally.
The legislation did not make it to the floor for a vote in Harrisburg, but Santarsiero said more Democrats in Harrisburg after this upcoming election could help make his reforms law with support from Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf.
“The time for action is absolutely here,” Santarsiero said.
Council Rock High School South student Olivia Mitchell, a supporter from countywide gun law reform activism group Bucks Students Demand Action, said there isn’t enough being done at the state and national level to protect students from gun violence and put new laws on the books.
An activist from gun reform group Orange Wave spoke to rally attendees and asked for support this election season to back lawmakers who agree their objectives to put additional regulations on firearms. A group spokesperson said Republicans have not done enough and singled out Fitzpatrick specifically.
In response to the rally, Fitzpatrick’s campaign pointed to their support by Giffords and Bloomberg’s groups.
“I think it speaks for itself that Democrat gun safety advocate Gabby Giffords – who is a survivor of gun violence herself – and Michael Bloomberg’s Everytown for Gun Safety, a grassroots group of 5 million Americans passionate about ending senseless gun violence, endorse Brian Fitzpatrick not Scott Wallace in this race,” campaign spokesperson Genevieve Malandra said.