Parkland shooting victims families turn tragedy into advocacy

Parkland shooting victims families turn tragedy into advocacy

Dix Hills resident Linda Beigel Schulman, second from left, and Commack resident Paul Guttenberg, third from left, at a rally together in summer in 2018. Photo from Ellyn Guttenberg

On a holiday to celebrate love in all its forms, two Suffolk County families’ worlds were forever shattered upon hearing their loved ones were killed in the Feb. 14 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

Dix Hills resident Linda Beigel Schulman learned that her son, Scott, a geography teacher was killed while attempting to lock his classroom door after holding it open for students fleeing from the gunman. Scott Beigel, 35, had only been teaching at Parkland for six months.

Paul Guttenberg, of Commack, recalled waiting for news that his 14-year-old niece, Jaime, was safely home from school, but his hope turned to despair when he received news she was one of the victims who was fatally shot.

I remember hearing about mass shootings on the news, but you never think you’ll be so affected until you are. This can happen to anyone and anywhere.”

— Paul Guttenberg

“How could this have happened,” he said at a March rally. “I remember hearing about mass shootings on the news, but you never think you’ll be so affected until you are. This can happen to anyone and anywhere. This could happen here to us, and it already happened to me.”

Both Beigel Schulman and Guttenberg have worked hard to make the best of a tragic situation and in doing so they have been transformed in the process.

“I have the deepest respect and admiration for Linda, who while coping with unspeakable sorrow, has channeled her emotions and energy into becoming a forceful voice for reasonable gun control,” Huntington Councilwoman Joan Cergol (D) said.

For their efforts in turning personal tragedy into action, TBR News Media is recognizing both Beigel Schulman and Guttenberg as 2018 People of the Year.

Throughout 2018, these two individuals have spoken out publicly and have met with federal, state and local officials to advocate for stricter gun control measures. Beigel Schulman and Guttenberg are familiar faces in the offices and staff members of U.S. Congressman Tom Suozzi (D-Glen Cove), Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D), Huntington Supervisor Chad Lupinacci (R) and the Huntington town board.

“[Linda] has implored legislators to ban automatic weapons and require background checks for all gun ownership and to pass the Red Flag Law in New York State,” Huntington Councilman Mark Cuthbertson (D) said. “She has and will continue to make a difference.”

“[Linda] has and will continue to make a difference.”

—Mark Cuthbertson

Beigel Schulman and Guttenberg came together July 29 in Huntington Station’s Breezy Park to speak at a gun control rally before a crowd of more than 600 people. Each took a turn at the podium to call for stricter gun control measures and encourage youth voter participation in the upcoming November elections.

“People ask me, ‘What can we do to support you?’” Beigel Schulman said July 29. “My answer is so simple: Make sure you get out and vote.”

Guttenberg’s wife, Ellyn, said it has taken a lot of courage and determination for her husband to step forward into the public spotlight following Parkland.

“Paul was not a public speaker,” she said. “It was very hard for him in the beginning, but it’s something he’s very passionate about.”

The ability of both Beigel Schulman and Guttenberg to move forward and attempt to make a difference, while being level headed, is a feature many elected officials applauded them for. Others have called their actions inspirational.

“Someday we will win this fight to have common sense gun violence prevention laws passed. Linda will be one of the proud drivers of that success,” Suozzi said. “She inspires me!”

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