‘My family doesn’t want prayers’
THE grieving aunt of the first victim publicly identified in the Florida mass shooting has lashed out at the National Rifle Association and told America the family "doesn't want your hopes and prayers".
Student Jaime Guttenberg, 14, was killed by accused gunman Nikolas Cruz on Wednesday, when he allegedly shot his way into Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida and opened fire on dozens of people with a semi-automatic weapon. At least 17 teachers and students died and many more were injured.
Ms Guttenberg's aunt Abbie Youkilis has written an open letter, provided exclusively to our sister paper news.com.au, in response to the tragedy.
We buried my brother, Dr. Michael Guttenberg, this past October. He was a 9/11 hero and 16 years later he died of a 9/11 related cancer. Our country came together after the 9/11 terrorist attacks to overcome evil. We fought two wars, we subjected ourselves to onerous changes in air travel security, and we willingly gave up civil liberties to give ourselves the illusion of safety.
But we are not safe. This weekend we will bury my niece. Her name is Jaime Guttenberg and she was the 14 year-old daughter of my brother Fred and sister-in-law Jen. She was Jesse's younger sister. Yesterday, she was murdered by a gun at her high school in Parkland Florida.
Jaime was in the 9th grade. She was a pretty girl with the world's best smile and her soul was sensitive and compassionate. She was intelligent and feisty and she danced with beauty and grace. She always looked out for the underdog and the bullied and she probably had been kind to the student who shot her. She planned to grow up and become a mommy and an occupational therapist.
Fred and Jen are the world's most loving and over-protective parents but they could not protect Jaime from the sickness that has gripped our country. Unless we change, nobody can protect us. My friends and fellow citizens, your guns are not protecting you. Your guns are killing our kids.
Why is your hunting hobby more important than my niece's life? Don't you see that your "second amendment" rights have been twisted and distorted beyond any rational interpretation? Why should my niece have been sacrificed at the altar of your "freedoms?"
Why don't you trust our police to protect us from crime? Don't you realise that mental illness has been and always will be a part of the human condition and that weapons of war should not be available to those among us who dream of mayhem and death? Don't you see the blood on all of our hands?
I don't care that Nikolas Cruz did this. If it had not been him, it would have been some other sad sick young man. I do care that he was able to legally purchase an assault weapon. I do care that the NRA and our so-called political leaders enabled him.
I don't care if Nikolas spends the rest of his life in jail or gets the death penalty. That will not bring back Jaime and it won't stop your kids from being the next victims of a "versatile, customizable" deadly weapon of war. I do care that the National Rifle Association (NRA) is dismantled. I do care that our Congress and our President (need to) outlaw these technologically sophisticated tools of murder just like
every other civilised country on this planet. Failure to act will make our politicians complicit in Jaime's murder. I want them to face charges and I want them brought to justice.
My family does not want your hopes and prayers. We want your action. Join us in fighting the NRA. Join us in deposing any politician who cares more about campaign contributions than my beautiful Jaime. Join us in supporting leaders who will bravely fight for our children's lives.
Don't tell me not to politicise this. Jaime would want me to. This is political and now this is personal. If not now, when? If not us, who? If we don't finally ACT, the sickness of gun violence will kill us all.
Abbie Youkilis MD