In February, Fred Guttenberg captivated the nation when he confronted his senator, Marco Rubio, during a televised CNN town hall discussing the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. “Your comments this week, and those of our president, have been pathetically weak,” he said at the event, which took place a week following the tragedy that claimed the lives of Guttenberg’s 14-year-old daughter, Jaime, and 16 others. “Look at me and tell me guns were the factor in the hunting of our kids in this school this week. And, look at me and tell me you accept it, and you will work with us to do something about guns.”
Since the attack, Guttenberg has become an activist, fighting alongside other parents affected by gun violence to push for reforms, including measures to enhance school safety and to hold law enforcement officials accountable for their failures.
Guttenberg joined several Parkland student activists in Newtown, Connecticut, on Sunday for the final stop on the teens’ “Road to Change” national bus tour, a multicity recruitment drive to sign up young voters and connect with gun reform leaders around the country. The event was a chance for Guttenberg to take stock of the six months since the shooting (the anniversary was Tuesday) and reflect on his priorities for the future, namely, the midterms, which he hopes voters will use to send a message to pro-gun politicians. “I’m 100 percent focused on the election,” Guttenberg says in a matter-of-fact tone. “If you’re on the wrong side of this issue, I’m going to work with every ounce of my fiber to fire you. That’s the bottom line. You don’t deserve to serve.”
Also at the rally was Nicole Hockley—mother of Dylan, who was killed in the Sandy Hook Elementary school shooting in December 2012. “It’s five and a half years for me, and I still look in the rearview mirror when I’m driving the car and expect to see Dylan in the backseat,” she said.
In the video above, Mother Jones hears from both parents about the ties that bind victims and survivors of highly publicized gun violence and about their own journeys of turning tragedy into advocacy.
For her part, Hockley helped found Sandy Hook Promise in the days following the attack. The nonprofit provides educational programs, outreach, and support for like-minded gun safety efforts, like the “Road to Change” tour. The national conversation surrounding gun control has changed since the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, Hockley says. “What’s happened with Parkland, and the Parkland student leaders bringing their voices to this,” Hockley continued, “is they have breathed new life into the movement and inspired and energized thousands upon thousands of youth across the country who realize, ‘This is a problem I can do something about.’”
Like Guttenberg, Hockley has turned her attention toward the November election. “I want to see record numbers of people voting in the midterms,” Hockley said. “I want to see record numbers of youth voting and registering to vote. If you don’t like the candidates that are there—or the incumbents that are in—vote them out.”