My daughter Jaime was a beautiful young girl, only 14 years old when she was murdered. She was a competitive dancer who inspired others to want to dance as well. What I am most proud of is her humanity. She volunteered for kids with special needs. She always stepped in the middle when she came across bullying. Jaime dreamt of being a pediatric physical therapist and helping children with limb deficiencies walk for the very first time. She loved her family, and she loved her dogs. She always told us how she would be married by the time she was 25 and planned to have two children — of course with two dogs as well.
This is who Jaime was and what I hope you think of when you hear the news about the Parkland shooter, who recently pleaded guilty and will now face a death penalty decision. There will be media interest around what happens in that courtroom and among the jurors who will decide if the shooter pays the ultimate price. But what I would like is to nix notoriety. Instead, I would like you to remember what I told you about Jaime, and that each person who died at Parkland was an individual with loved ones, a life, and a personality. Our families should take precedent over the shooter who broke them.
Does it really matter if you do that? Actually, yes. The evidence is clear and the examples abundant: those who commit this kind of violence do so in part for notoriety, to become famous. Sadly, when we look back at many prior shootings it is true that most will recall the name of the shooter and not the victims. It does not need to be this way.
There were 17 victims in Parkland who lost their lives, and a further 17 who were injured. The families of those affected have had our lives reshaped by the shooter’s actions. We will have to see the shooter’s face in the media and watch him appear in a courtroom to face Broward County jurors while they vote on whether he deserves the death penalty. We will be re-traumatized by seeing his face and hearing his name, over and over again.
We do not want to be asked questions about the murderer, even though we are constantly. Do you hate him? Do you forgive him? These are the questions I was asked last week following his guilty plea to the murder of my daughter and 16 others. The truth is, I will never forgive him, and I have zero emotion for him. I try to wipe his memory from my mind.
What would have been a more appropriate question to ask me is: How should we ensure we focus only on the victims? Perhaps looking to New Zealand is one option. Following the 2019 shooting at two mosques in Christchurch, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said, “You will never hear me mention his name,” of the shooter. She continued: “He is a terrorist, he is a criminal, he is an extremist, but he will, when I speak, be nameless, and to others I implore you: Speak the names of those who were lost rather than the name of the man who took them. He may have sought notoriety but we in New Zealand will give him nothing — not even his name.”
Tom Teves, the co-founder of the No Notoriety campaign, also warns against providing mass shooters with too much attention — even in the well-intended service of trying to reckon with their motivations — runs the risk of creating a “narrative that they’re an anti-hero… and that’s a false narrative.” For me, the only narrative that matters is that they are murderers and they left victims behind.
The coverage of the murder trial for me has been very difficult. Hearing his name and seeing his picture always makes things worse. His name was not used once in this article and yet it did not need to be. It is clear who I am talking about. Keep the focus on the only names that matter.
Jaime Guttenberg, Alex Schacter, Alyssa Alhadeff, Scott Beigel, Martin Duque Anguiano, Nicholas Dworet, Gina Montalto, Chris Hixon, Joaquin Oliver, Luke Hoyer, Aaron Feis, Cara Loughran, Alaina Petty, Meadow Pollack, Helena Ramsay, Carmen Schentrup, Peter Wang. These are the victims of the Parkland school shooting. You already know who the murderer is. There is no need to ever use his name. These are the names to remember.
Fred Guttenberg is an activist against gun violence