‘We can fi x it’: Parkland dad on guns
BY GABE HERMAN
At a May 23 event in Chelsea at the Center for
Jewish History, Parkland father Fred Guttenberg
talked about the school shooting last
year that took his daughter’s life, and the work he is
doing to promote gun safety laws in America.
Guttenberg’s daughter, Jaime, was 14 when she was
killed on Feb. 14, 2018, in the mass shooting at Marjory
Stoneman Douglas High School, in Parkland,
Florida, by a troubled former student. The shooting
left a total of 17 people dead, including students and
Guttenberg was joined in conversation at the Chelsea
event, at 15 W. 16th St., by ABC News journalist
Guttenberg spoke candidly and powerfully of the
events of that tragic day last year. Since it was Valentine’s
Day, he had digitized his and his wife’s wedding
video, to watch that night as a family with Jaime and
He recalled that morning being a normally chaotic
one, trying to get everyone out the door. Guttenberg
said he is haunted by what he doesn’t remember of
that day, like not knowing if he told his daughter that
he loved her.
He received a call in the afternoon from his son
at school, who said there was a shooter and that he
didn’t know where his sister was. Later that day Guttenberg
had to tell his wife the news he had learned,
that their daughter had been slain.
Jaime was killed in a school hallway, just before she
was able to turn a corner and safely go into a stairwell.
Guttenberg said he could only hope that she
died instantly and did not suffer.
Guttenberg has since worked tirelessly to advocate
for gun control laws, and started a nonprofi t with his
wife, Orange Ribbons for Jaime. The organization
supports programs that were important to Jaime, and
those that work toward gun safety reforms. This year,
the nonprofi t is supporting Jacob’s Pillow, the Paley
Institute and Broward County Humane Society.
The statistics related to gun violence in America
are staggering, as was noted in the evening’s conversation.
Gutman said there are about 40,000 gun
deaths in America every year. Just this year, just since
March 31, there have been 50 mass shootings.
“And school shootings are the ultimate derangement,”
Guttenberg, who is originally from Long Island,
stressed that shootings don’t just happen in schools,
COURTESY FRED GUTTENBERG/FACEBOOK
Jaime Guttenberg, center, with her parents
Fred and Jennifer and her brother Jesse.
“Every one of you loves someone,” he said. “We
need to understand that we are all potentially victims.”
“The crazy thing is, this is fi xable and preventable,”
he added. “We have a gun problem in this country.”
He said he wouldn’t stop his advocacy efforts until
the problem was addressed, and said that while the
U.S. House of Representatives currently has the will
to pass laws, the Senate does not.
“The next election for me means everything,” Guttenberg
Guttenberg and Gutman discussed the potential
causes of America’s problem with gun violence and
mass shootings. Gutman thought that maybe a lack of
community and isolation was a major factor.
Guttenberg said that even though mental health is
often pointed to, two-thirds of shooters do not have a
mental health problem, and that what is unique about
America is how easy it is to obtain weapons.
The bereaved father said that most countries restrict
the kinds of weapons that people can buy, and
make them harder to purchase, including by adding
more background checks. He said this would also
help because many shootings are done based on emotion,
and taking more time to obtain guns might prevent
When it comes to America’s gun violence, “the fi rst
cause people should say should be the gun,” Guttenberg
emphasized. He said the National Rifl e Association
is the biggest reason more is not being done to
address the crisis, in his view.
“The problem has escalated and we’ve done nothing
about it,” he said.
This March, Jaime’s Law was introduced by Senator
Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and Representative
Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL). The law would
require instant universal background checks for sales
of gun ammunition.
“Bullets don’t know if you’re Republican or Democrat,”
Guttenberg said at the Chelsea event. He also
supports safe storage laws, which require guns to be
locked away and unloaded when people who are not
authorized to possess a gun are present.
“This is not rocket science, this is a fi xable problem,”
he said. Guttenberg added that while laws won’t
prevent every killing, commonsense legislation can
prevent dangerous people from getting guns, including
those who spew hate on social media.
Since the conversation was held at the Center for
Jewish History, Gutman asked Guttenberg about his
Jewish background and the role it plays in his life.
Guttenberg said that he grew up in a Conservative
Jewish home on Long Island, and was raised to give
back and do what’s right for others.
“That is the Jewish upbringing in me, that plays a
strong role in what I do,” he said.
Guttenberg acknowledged that his faith in God has
been shaken, fi rst when his brother died of 9/11-related
cancer just four months before the school shooting,
and then after his daughter was murdered.
“My faith in community and people got stronger
than it’s ever been,” he shared. “I have met amazing
people who have been pillars of strength for me.”
Gutman noted that kids who save lives in school
shootings are being lauded as heroes, and Guttenberg
said that while he is thankful for those children saving
lives, he feels that it normalizes gun violence.
“No 12-year-old should be giving his life because
we have a gun problem in this country,” he said. “Kids
are being coached how to deal with shootings and be
heroes, instead of addressing the gun problem,” Guttenberg
added. “No one should be O.K. with that.”
Woman hit by branch in Wash. Sq. recovering
BY LINCOLN ANDERSON
A Virginia tourist who was critically
injured by a falling tree
branch in Washington Square
Park last week is doing better. However,
the fungus identifi ed as the accident’s
cause has been associated with
Penny Chang, 55, of Charlottesville,
was sitting on a bench on the park’s
west side around 7:40 p.m. on Mon.,
May 20, when a reportedly 30-to-35-
foot-long branch from a London plane
tree fell and struck her. Her skull and
spine were fractured, according to the
“She is doing better. Her injuries are
quite serious, but the doctors are more
optimistic now,” her son, Jacob, told
the News on May 22.
Chang was said to be in stable condition
at Bellevue Hospital’s intensivecare
unit last week.
Crystal Howard, the Parks Department’s
assistant commissioner for communications,
told this paper that the
35-inch-diameter tree was last inspected
in July 2017 and its last pruning was
in August 2017.
“Our preliminary inspection indicated
that the tree showed signs of having
Massaria, a fungus,” she said. “Additional
review of the tree and surrounding
trees found no immediate hazard.”
Massaria is most often found in London
plane trees. Stress, usually due to
lack of water availability, is tied to incidence
Wikipedia notes that Massaria disease
“has usually been considered to
be a weak parasite causing only minor
damage, such as twig dieback in warmer
Mediterranean climates. However,
in the 21st Century it has been found
associated with branch death and rapid
decay within other parts of Europe,
most notably Germany and Austria,
the Netherlands and parts of France.
Damage caused by this fungus has
been reported in the southern United
States. The fi rst formal identifi cation
of the disease in the United Kingdom
came in March 2011. … The disease
causes large lesions on the upper sides
of branches associated with branch
Similarly, Forest Research, the United
Kingdom’s main forestry and treerelated
research organization, notes
that Massaria disease in plane trees can
cause branch drop.
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