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Father of teen killed in Parkland, FL mass shooting: "To my friends in Buffalo, I don't know you, but I love you"

Women hug at site of Buffalo mass shooting
Posted at 8:43 PM, May 19, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-19 20:43:08-04

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — Its been five days since a suspected 18-year-old terrorized an East Side Buffalo neighborhood by murdering ten black shoppers, and injuring three others on Saturday.

"We can't be okay with this," said Fred Guttenberg. His daughter Jamie was killed in the 2018 mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. Jamie was only 14-years-old.

"We cant let this be our new normal American experience," said Guttenberg. "That going to school, going to buy groceries, going to get your three-year-old son, like what happened in Buffalo, a birthday cake becomes a deadly outing."

According to the Gun Violence Archive, in 2022 there have already been more than 200 mass shootings in the U.S. As of May 19, the deadliest was Saturday's massacre in Buffalo.

"These events are unfortunately predictable, they are also preventable," said Guttenberg. "We just have to choose to make some choices, and do things differently."

According to authorities, Saturday's suspected killer wrote in a class assignment about committing a "murder/suicide." He later told authorities he was joking, and was released back to his home in Conklin, NY.

"This defendant had been interviewed by a mental health professional, who deemed him to be not dangerous or not at risk of harming himself or others at that particular time," said Broome County District Attorney Michael Korchak on Wednesday.

Last year New York's Red Flag Laws made it optional for State Police to to file for an extreme risk protection order against any person they feel is a threat. After Saturday's mass shooting at the Tops on Jefferson Avenue that has changed.

"Now it will be required," said New York Governor Kathy Hochul on Wednesday. She announced tougher Red Flag Laws, and signed an executive order on Wednesday to combat hate and address gun violence.

If the suspect in Buffalo's mass shooting had been red flagged, he would not have been able to buy a gun in Endicott, NY.

So how was the teen able to buy a military style weapon without a license? It has to do with categorization. According to 7 News' legal analyst Florina Altshiler, an 18-year-old can purchase a large weapon, such as a semi-automatic rife, without a license. That's because it's not considered an assault weapon in New York State. Altshiler said it's considered more of a piece of "hunting equipment."

What made the suspect's gun illegal, was the magazine he purchased out of state to increase the gun's capacity.

Altshiler said while you have to be at least 21 with a permit to buy a pistol, there is no specific law in New York State for these larger guns that aren't considered assault weapons.

"Military style weapons on our streets are used in events like this for a very specific reason," exclaimed Guttenberg. "Killing as many people as possible."

Guttenberg's daughter Jamie was one of 17 people shot and killed in minutes in the Florida high school. Her killer pled guilty to 17 counts of premeditated first-degree murder, and 17 counts of attempted first-degree murder. The 19-year-old shooter in Parkland was also found to have racist and hateful ideologies, but shot anyone he saw.

In Buffalo, the 18-year-old suspected shooter specifically targeted black shoppers. He live streamed the video on social media, at one point apologizing for pointing a gun at someone who wasn't black.

"The intersection of white supremacy, and hate speech and of divisiveness, combined with the easy access to these weapons, has the predictable outcomes," said Guttenberg. "We as a country have got to decide."

Along with being a gun violence advocate, Guttenberg is also a source of help to families stricken by gun violence.

7 News reporter Michael Schwartz asked Guttenberg, "What is your message to the families continuing to reel?"

"To my friends in Buffalo, I want you to know this," said Guttenberg. "I don’t know you, but I love you. We are a part of a community that we shouldn’t be a part of. I wish it wasn’t this way, but you’re going to be OK, and I want to do whatever I can to help you in quiet moments out of the lime light away form crowds, away from the media."

If you lost a loved one in Saturday's shooting, you can email to connect you with Guttenberg.

Guttenberg reiterated something that President Joe Biden told him in the wake of the Parkland mass shooting. Biden also told families this during a visit to the City of Good Neighbors Tuesday.

"[Biden] said to me, the day is going to come where the pictures and memories that bring a tear to your eye now, you'll look at that same picture down the road, and smile at what that memory meant."

Guttenberg emphasized that loved ones grieving from Saturday's tragedy should grieve at their own pace, as everyone is different.

"People are going to put their hand on your shoulder, and they're going to look at you and say 'Hey, you look like you're doing OK,'" explained Guttenberg. "If you're not OK, and not wanting to talk about it, be honest. You don't have an obligation to make people feel OK in that moment."

Guttenberg expressed the first 10 days after such an unfathomable tragedy are the worst, and he hopes to be in Buffalo soon to give help to anyone who needs.