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Parkland victim’s father: We will get gun reform in the U.S.

Children want to be able to go to school, church and the mall without fear of being shot, and they are going to demand it, says Fred Guttenberg, a vocal advocate for reforming the nation's gun laws since his 14-year-old daughter Jaime was killed in the deadly shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. Guttenberg joins Judy Woodruff to discuss the coming March For Our Lives and more.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    As many as one million people are expected to march against gun violence in Washington and other cities this weekend, an action sparked by last month's deadly shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

    Fourteen-year-old Jaime Guttenberg was among the 17 who died that day.

    Jaime's father, Fred Guttenberg, has since become one of the most vocal of the parents who lost a child, advocating for reforming the nation's gun laws.

    And he joins me now from Davie, Florida.

    Mr. Guttenberg, first of all, our most sincere condolences in the loss of your daughter.

  • Fred Guttenberg:

    Thank you. Thank you.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    What does this…

  • Fred Guttenberg:

    Rough month.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    I can only imagine.

    What does this march on Saturday mean to you?

  • Fred Guttenberg:

    The march on Saturday means that we are on our way to getting real commonsense gun safety done.

    It means that, in a very short period of time, these kids and the people of this country have stepped up and spoken up and said, enough. And I think what you're going to see is, not just in Washington, but around the country, possibly the largest number of people ever marching.

    And it tells me they want to be able to go to school, go to the mall, go to a temple or a church, a movie theater, anywhere, without fear of being shot. And they're going to demand it, and they're going to demand that legislators do something about it, or get fired.

    You know, we're watching our business community step up and take a leadership action. Today, the latest example of that was Citigroup. If the business community can step up and do it, so can our legislators. And it's time that they act.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Do you think this is going to lead to meaningful change in terms of people who are elected to office and the laws they pass?

    And I ask that because Congress passed the spending bill today, is in the process of passing it, and it contains, what, $1.5 billion in some measures to make schools safer, to step up the background check system, but it's not the kind of change you and others are calling for.

  • Fred Guttenberg:

    Well, no, it's not. And it's a great question.

    Listen, do I think we're going to get there? You betcha. These are some simple facts. If we don't now, members of Congress are going to get fired.

    As a reminder, these kids who are marching, they're going to be voting really soon. The mothers of these families that are standing around, and the fathers like myself, we're going to all get out and make sure we vote in every election coming up.

    You know, I have had some conversations with people over the past month about how, you know, we really can't make a difference, how our voice doesn't matter. And if there's anything that I think we have proven in the past month is that our voice does matter, that, when we speak up, when we demand action, it happens.

    Look at what happened in Florida, a state where you never would have expected a gun safety reform bill, and we have it. Look at what happened — is happening now in the business community.

    Unfortunately, Washington, we elect folks to be leaders. They're not. They're legislators. They're followers. However, they're going to follow what's happening. I am optimistic that they will take note of the crowds. I am optimistic they are watching what the business community is doing.

    I am also optimistic that are going to be paying attention to the news around what their donors are doing, because everything is moving away from them when it comes to gun safety. They will either act, or they will be fired, but we will get gun safety reform in this country.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    As you know so well, Fred Guttenberg, what the gun lobby is saying, however, is that this is all about young people with an emotional or a mental — an emotional disturbance or a mental illness, and it's about school safety, about making sure that schools are secure if someone shows up with a gun.

    How do you answer that?

  • Fred Guttenberg:

    Well, I tell them, you know what? That's all correct. Mental illness is part of it. Making sure schools are safe is part of it.

    However, the common denominator in every tragedy is the gun. And, unfortunately, for the gun lobby, I think their influence has been, unfortunately, larger on our elected officials than it should have been over the years, and their influence is waning.

    Their money is going away. OK? Public opinion has turned against them. I can speak to you and tell you, I have received — for every message I have gotten from someone in the gun lobby who maybe complains about what I'm doing, I have also gotten one or two messages from someone in the gun lobby who says, you know what? You're right.

    The issue isn't the membership. It's the leadership. And even the members of the NRA are saying, our leadership has failed us. They're out of touch.

    They're sending me pictures of their cut-up NRA cards. OK?

    So, when you ask me, do I think the gun lobby or whoever else says it's about school safety, it's about security and mental health, they're right. I'm not going to tell them that's not part of it, but guns are part of it, too.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    You are a private citizen, Mr. Guttenberg, and yet I have seen you stand up and be forceful in talking to a United States senator, Marco Rubio from your state of Florida. I have seen you be forceful in the interviews, many interviews you have done.

    Where is that courage coming from?

  • Fred Guttenberg:

    Well, my daughter.

    My daughter was 14, but she was tough and, honestly, the toughest person who I knew. And, unfortunately, the way she died was running down a hallway with a gun at her back, and she was running for her life.

    And I — every second, I think about the fear in her as she was doing it, and I also know how hard she was fighting to live. Honestly, because of what she went through, it's perspective, but I don't feel fear about anything anymore, because nothing could ever be like what she experienced.

    And until I do something, so that no other parent will ever have to go through what my daughter went through and what my family is going through, I just have this need to fight like this.

    This has gone on too many times. And ,in the past, whenever these tragedies have happened, I have found the conversation afterwards to always be way too polite, way too comfortable and way too temporary. I don't feel like being polite. I don't feel like making people comfortable. And I don't feel like going away until something gets done.

    And that comes from my daughter. She would expect me to do this.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Well, Mr. Guttenberg, Fred Guttenberg, we — our hearts go out to you, to your family. We can't imagine what it's like to be going through what you're going through, but we thank you very much for talking with us.

  • Fred Guttenberg:

    Thank you.

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