JTA — Abbie Youkilis, the aunt of slain teenager Jaime Guttenberg, doesn’t want prayers. She wants action.
Jaime, 14, was one of the 17 students and faculty killed in the high school shooting Wednesday in Parkland, Florida. In an emotional Facebook post published Thursday, her aunt called guns a national disease and demanded change.
“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,” she said of Jaime’s parents. “Unless we change, nobody can protect us. My friends and fellow citizens, your guns are not protecting you. Your guns are killing our kids.”
Youkilis wrote that her niece was a beautiful girl who looked out for others, and that she one day hoped to become an occupational therapist and have kids of her own.
“She was a pretty girl with the world’s best smile and her soul was sensitive and compassionate,” Youkilis wrote. “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.”
Youkilis, a doctor, wrote that her brother, Jaime’s uncle, recently died from a cancer stemming from the September 11, 2001 terror attack in New York. She compared the national response to mass shootings with the massive legislative and military response to 9/11.
“Our country came together after the 9/11 terrorist attacks to overcome evil,” she wrote. “We fought 2 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.”
She blamed the National Rifle Association and pro-gun politicians for mass shootings. She said voters should demand gun control legislation and politicians who care about life more than gun rights.
“My family does not want your hopes and prayers,” she wrote. “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.”
Youkilis’ post has resonated, getting shared more than 6,700 times in the first 17 hours since it was published.
Not surprisingly, not everyone agrees with Youkilis or other victims’ family members who think this week’s tragedy is an occasion for debating gun control. Rep. Steve Scalise, the Louisiana Republican who was gravely wounded in a shooting last year, told Fox News on Thursday that Americans should “Go pray for these families, care about these families. Don’t try to promote your agenda in the middle of a tragedy.”
“Any time there’s any kind of tragedy, I mean a shooting, a bombing whatever — immediately you’ve got a group of legislators that go run out and start calling for gun control to take away the rights of law-abiding citizens,” Scalise said. “Look at their bills. Read their bills, they have nothing to do with these kinds of shootings.”
But Youkilis disagrees.
“Don’t tell me not to politicize this. Jaime would want me to. This is political and now this is personal. If not now, when? If not us, who?” she wrote, quoting the 1st century CE sage Hillel. “If we don’t finally ACT, the sickness of gun violence will kill us all.”
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