As mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, and friends of the Parkland, Florida high school shooting victims make demands from their lawmakers for sensible gun laws, one particular figure — Fred Guttenberg — has gained rapid popularity for a simple reason. On Wednesday night, CNN's Town Hall meeting brought together Guttenberg and Marco Rubio, among other people, to discuss what local state legislation could do to fix America's disturbing record of gun violence.
Family members and friends of the 17 Parkland shooting victims convened at the CNN Town Hall gathering and called Rubio out in direct and uncompromising words. But Guttenberg, who lost his daughter Jaime Guttenberg last week, won the praise of the present crowd and viewers online when he said, "Your comments this week, and those of our president, have been pathetically weak." The crowd erupted in cheers for Guttenberg.
Speaking directly with Rubio, Guttenberg went on to say, "Look at me and tell me you will do something about guns." Rubio responded and said, "I will look at you and tell you what I said, and repeat it." Guttenberg pressed, "Were guns a factor?" At this point a visibly-tense Rubio said, "I will support the banning of bump stocks. I think what you're asking about is the assault weapon ban. If I believed that the passing of that law would prevent this, I would support it, but it does not."
Upon hearing Rubio's response, Guttenberg looked at the Republican senator and said, "My daughter, who was running down the halls when she was shot, was killed by these guns. If you can't see that, then I'm sorry." Here's a video of the intense exchange.
Guttenberg has been vocal about losing his daughter in the Parkland shooting. A day after the shooting took place on Valentine's, Guttenberg spoke of Jaime in open and vulnerable terms. The visibly heartbroken father held back his tears while remembering his fourteen-year-old daughter. "I don't know what I do next. Don't tell me there's no such thing as gun violence. It happened in Parkland." While speaking of losing his brother to cancer, Guttenberg said the loss of his daughter was even "worse."
On Facebook, Guttenberg wrote of his daughter and said,
My heart is broken. Yesterday, Jennifer Bloom Guttenberg and I lost our baby girl to a violent shooting at her school. We lost our daughter and my son Jesse Guttenberg lost his sister. I am broken as I write this trying to figure out how my family gets through this.
"We appreciate all of the calls and messages and we apologize for not reacting to everyone individually," Guttenberg said. "Jen and I will be figuring things out today and so we ask that you respect out privacy. We will be getting messages out later regarding visitation. Hugs to all and hold your children tight."
In the days after the Parkland shooting, Guttenberg described his daughter as a loving, positive, and happy child during her vigil. He called her "the energy in the room." Jaime, her father said, would make people laugh "and, yes, sometimes she made us cry." Guttenberg also said that it was his job to keep his children safe and that he sent Jaime to school who "was supposed to be safe." At the end of his heartbreaking speech, Guttenberg added he couldn't remember if he told his daughter that he loved her that horrific day.
With his direct and heated words for Rubio on Wednesday night, the mourning father is being praised as a hero for not holding his thoughts back. While speaking of Guttenberg, one Twitter user simply said, "You are so brave and it’s so meaningful to see you using your grief for good. Thank you, thank you, thank you."