Fred Guttenberg Pushes for "Common-Sense" Gun Reform After His Daughter's Murder at Parkland

Fred Guttenberg and his daughter Jaime
Fred Guttenberg and his daughter Jaime Courtesy of Fred Guttenberg
Every year for the past eight or nine years, Fred Guttenberg took the stage at his daughter Jaime's dance recital for a routine called "Dancing Dads." The number featured all of the dance dads doing their best to follow choreography and ended with all of the girls joining their fathers onstage.

Guttenberg, who calls himself the "world's worst dancer," hasn't decided if he's up for it again this year. Though the dance studio has asked him to participate, he would have to dance without his daughter. Jaime was killed by the gunman who tore through Marjory Stoneman Douglas High this past Valentine's Day. She was 14, a Best Buddies volunteer, and a lifelong dancer who hoped to one day become a physical therapist.

"Everybody said it'll get easier," Guttenberg said Friday at a Dunkin' Donuts near Dance Theatre, the studio where his daughter practiced. "It doesn't. It gets harder."

Since the Parkland shooting, Guttenberg has emerged as one of the most vocal advocates for gun reform. He's crisscrossed the country to meet with politicians and push for what he calls common-sense, nonpartisan laws, including stronger background checks, red-flag laws, three-day waiting periods, a ban on high-capacity magazines, and raising the age to purchase weapons from 18 to 21.

Notably, Guttenberg is not calling for an outright ban on assault rifles. Bring up such a demand, he says, and "people run left and right." He's seeking bipartisan legislation that has a real chance of passing, and in his advocacy work over the past couple of months, he's met with legislators on both sides of the aisle.

Guttenberg came to prominence thanks to a memorable skewering of Sen. Marco Rubio during CNN's town hall, when Guttenberg tried to persuade the Republican lawmaker to admit that access to guns was a factor in the tragedy. Since then, his stops have included D.C., where he testified in front of senators, and Ohio, where he appeared alongside Gov. John Kasich to press for passage of new gun legislation.

He also started the nonprofit Orange Ribbons for Jaime, which will support things his daughter cared about, such as dance and children with special needs. It'll also back organizations that work to prevent violence at school.

Guttenberg has hardly had time to grieve the loss of Jaime, who he says was bubbly and smart and constantly in motion.

"She'd complain about how tired she was, and then the next thing you knew, she'd be dancing around the house," he says. "She wouldn't stop."

But whenever he does slow down, he's forced to reckon with the loss — with how much quieter his house has become, with the "Dancing Dad" routines he'll never do again with Jaime. So, instead, he presses on in fighting for gun reform.

Guttenberg says he gets plenty of vitriol online from people critical of his advocacy. But he says nothing will deter him.

"My daughter died running down a hallway from a gunman," he says. "The last few minutes of her life, that's how they were. That's fear. Somebody typing shit to me online? I don't care. I'll never have the fear that my daughter had, so in a weird way, I've lost the ability to have fear."
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Brittany Shammas is a former staff writer at Miami New Times. She covered education in Naples before taking a job at the South Florida Sun Sentinel. She joined New Times in 2016.
Contact: Brittany Shammas