Activist Fred Guttenberg Reveals Joe Biden Helped Him ‘Find Purpose’ After Daughter’s Murder

After losing his daughter Jaime Guttenberg in the Stoneman Douglas High School massacre, Fred Guttenberg received a call from now-President Joe Biden that inspired him to 'find purpose' in his grief.

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When Fred Guttenberg lost his daughter Jaime, 14, in the school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on February 14, 2018, he was in so much shock that he didn’t realize that she and his family were victims of the epidemic of gun violence that has plagued America. It was only when he spoke out at a vigil for the students and teachers, whose lives were taken by a mass shooter, that “it hit me, this was gun violence. And I said, ‘This time, gun violence came to the wrong community and messed with the wrong dad,” Fred recalled on the HollywoodLife podcast. “I walked into my house that night, after that vigil, and I said, ‘I don’t know how I’m going to do this, but I’m going to break that f-ing gun lobby.’ And it became my mission. And later that week, I got a call from now-President Joe Biden.”

It was at the vigil in Parkland, FL, that Fred discovered he had a voice, when he gave an impromptu, impassioned speech memorializing his daughter and speaking out again the gun slaughter that had taken so many precious lives. Afterwards, he received multiple calls from family, friends, news outlets, activists, political figures, and the then-Vice President of the United States. “I wasn’t answering my phone if I didn’t [recognize] the number,” he recalled. “I got a random call around 1:30 in the afternoon one day, and [the caller] left a message, and he just said, ‘Hey, Fred, this is Joe Biden and I’d like to talk to you. If you’re interested, I will call you back at exactly six o’clock, and if you pick up and you want to talk, great — if not, I understand.” To the mourning father’s surprise, the now-POTUS did, in fact, call back at 6 PM sharp, and the two “ended up having an amazing conversation for about 45 to 50 minutes.”

“Joe Biden knows grief,” Fred told HL, recalling that Biden was speaking to him while on his way to an event for the Beau Biden Foundation, honoring his late son. “At some point he asked me, ‘So, what is your plan?’ I said, ‘I don’t have a plan. I just know I want to break that f-ing gun lobby.’ He [replied], ‘You will, you can do it. He started talking to me about mission and purpose, and that conversation is when I realized I have a mission and a purpose.”

Joe Biden and Fred Guttenberg. (Shutterstock)

The Florida resident revealed that prior to the Parkland school shooting, he had taken a break from work after caring for his brother, who lost his battle to a 9/11-related cancer. “I was going crazy, I didn’t know what to do. I’m not good at waking up and not having a plan. So, I was starting to look for a mission, a purpose, and then my daughter was killed,” Fred remembered. “When Joe Biden said that to me, it stopped everything else in its tracks and became clear to me this was the only thing that made sense of what I can do going forward. And it’s been that way since.”

Guttenberg has since devoted himself to “breaking the f-ing gun lobby,” and he’s made a huge amount of progress, working in tandem with many activists and President Joe Biden to push Congress into passing the first gun control bill in nearly 30 years. According to The New York Times, the bipartisan gun bill “will expand the background check system for prospective gun buyers under the age of 21, giving authorities up to 10 business days to examine juvenile and mental health records. It sets aside millions of dollars so states can fund intervention programs, such as mental health and drug courts, and [enact] so-called red flag laws that allow authorities to temporarily confiscate guns from any person found by a judge to be too dangerous to possess them.”

“A friend of mine who’s running for Congress described the bill as necessary, but not sufficient, and I think that sums it up,” Fred told HL of the new legislation. “While I wished we would have raised the age to [purchase a gun] to 21, we couldn’t get all the votes needed to do that. But now, having a mechanism with which to put more attention on those under 21 who are trying to buy these weapons, and extend the significance of the background checks and connect law enforcement and the FBI as part of that process will absolutely stop young people in a moment of crisis from buying a weapon, that they may use to commit harm.”

“For 30 years, those on the other side always knew and said, ‘You’ll never get anything passed.’ And they knew it. They were right. But we’ve broken through that wall,” he smiled. “It’s no longer about whether or not we can get anything passed. Now it’s only about what’s possible, what more we can do to save lives. That’s what this is all about. This isn’t about restricting rights of gun owners. That’s a bunch of BS. This is about saving lives.”