Last night, President Trump gave his State of the Union address to a room filled with House Representatives, Senators, and the honored guests of lawmakers. The speech, which touched on the economy, ending surprise billing in health care, awarding Rush Limbaugh, controversial Conservative radio host recently diagnosed with lung cancer who once called a college student a “slut” and “prostitute” for advocating for insurance-covered birth control a Presidential Medal of Freedom, foreign policy, and the threats of socialism, was predictably well-met by conservative lawmakers and guests and not so well-met by Democrats and those who they brought with them. (The most memed-about moment of the night might be the fact that House Majority Leader Nancy Pelosi ripped up her copy of his speech moments in an act of defiance after it ended.)
But one moment which might have been lost on the audience was when Fred Guttenberg, father of the late Jaime Guttenberg, a Marjory Stoneman Douglas High student from Parkland, Florida who was killed in the Parkland shooting on Valentine’s Day of 2018, was escorted out of the audience. A guest of Pelosi for the second year in a row, Guttenberg has devoted his life after his daughter’s violent death by starting the organization Orange Ribbons for Jaime, an organization that pursues causes that were near and dear to Jaime’s heart and fighting to end gun violence. He and his wife, Jennifer, have also written regularly for Newsweek on the danger of 3D-printed guns and the need for more gun safety legislation. He also helped lawmakers introduce Jaime’s Law, which was introduced by House Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz, which would put background checks on buying bullets and ammunition.
The reason he was escorted out of the building? Trump spoke on protecting the Second Amendment, which provides for the right to keep and bear arms. “Just as we believe in the First Amendment, we also believe in another constitutional right that is under siege all across our country. So long as I am President, I will always protect your Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms,” Trump said. In response, clouded by GOP applause, Guttenberg yelled: “What about my daughter?” He was promptly escorted out of the hall.
Guttenberg has more than enough reason to be angry. The National Rifle Association, infamously known for being anti-gun control of any kind, (NRA) spent over $30 million to elect Trump in 2016 and are set to spend more money to keep him in office beyond 2020. Trump has refused to make any major changes in gun legislation and, after the many mass shootings that have happened in his presidency (there have been 28 mass shootings in 2020 alone) has offered thoughts and prayers in lieu of gun control, background check legislation, or any number of small measures that would lessen the impact of gun violence. One major piece of legislation — the Bipartisan Background Checks Act, which would end loopholes for private gun sales that allow people to buy guns without a background check, among other measures — passed the house in 2019 and has been sitting on the Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s desk ever since. It was written with bipartisan support.
After being kicked out of the speech, Guttenberg tweeted: “Tonight was a rough night. I disrupted the State Of The Union and was detained because I let my emotions get the best of me. I simply want to be able to deal with the reality of gun violence and not have to listen to the lies about the 2A as happened tonight.”
In another tweet, he continued: “Tonight was a rough night. I disrupted the State Of The Union and was detained because I let my emotions get the best of me. I simply want to be able to deal with the reality of gun violence and not have to listen to the lies about the 2A as happened tonight.”
But the reality is that he wouldn’t be in that room had his daughter not died due to gun violence — one reality he is very aware of, having written about it in the past. And since he was escorted out of the building, the hashtag #ImWithFred has been trending on Twitter with some dozens of thousands of supporters tweeting for Guttenberg’s actions. Parkland survivors and activists, politicians, and guns rights activists have clamored around him, praising his bravery and his commitment to ending gun violence in the United States.