The father of a Parkland school shooting victim who was escorted out of President Donald Trump’s State of the Union address last week after shouting said he was overcome by emotion at the president’s comments on guns.
Fred Guttenberg, who lost his 14-year-old daughter Jaime in the Florida shooting and has since dedicated his life to campaigning for gun safety, cried out “what about my daughter” as Trump said the Second Amendment was “under siege.”
Guttenberg, who was invited to the event by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, was then escorted from the chamber by security. “My emotions got the best of me last week and I wish they didn’t,” Guttenberg told Newsweek.
“I try to go through this process without having that happen, where my emotions overwhelm me. But they did last week because of the things this president was saying.”
The campaigner, who set up an organization in his daughter’s honor called Orange Ribbons for Jaime, said Trump’s words were “hateful and inciting and ultimately not doing anything about why gun violence happens.”
He continued that Trump was “blaming people like me who want to do something about gun violence and saying, ‘we will defend the Second Amendment from people like you.'”
“Well, the Second Amendment isn’t at risk. It’s a lie,” Guttenberg said.
“So I acted out. I’m very thankful for what happened the following day because gun violence was part of the conversation the day after the State of the Union and it would not have otherwise been.”
During his address, Trump had said: “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.”
Guttenberg said his relationship with the Trump Administration has not changed over the incident. “I would say it was never one that has been wonderful because I call out what I see, which is no meaningful action on gun violence,” he said.
He believes the Administration uses language that “enhances the potential risk of violence.”
“So I call them out on that. I mean, they’re not an administration that is actually trying to lower the risk of violence around this country. They use language that enhances it and I will always call that out,” he said.
Guttenberg has been a vocal advocate for gun reform since his daughter was among the 17 people killed at Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida in February 2018.
His wife Jennifer has written about losing her daughter to gun violence and why she believes the 2020 presidential election is the most important in a generation.
On Monday, the White House schedule listed an event: “The President greets Parkland families.” It surprised Guttenberg and he wrote on Twitter to highlight that his family had not been invited.
It transpired that the closed-doors afternoon event was with a specific group called Stand With Parkland, founded by some of the families, to discuss the roll-out of a specific school safety initiative it was involved with.
Guttenberg, who is not part of the group, said he found the White House schedule misleading because it implied the event was a general meeting with Parkland families ahead of the shooting’s two-year anniversary on February 14.
“Now that I know what it was, I’m OK not having been there. When the public schedule went out, it didn’t say a meeting with members of Stand With Parkland to discuss school safety. It said meeting with Parkland families,” Guttenberg said.
“I started getting phone calls and I sent out the tweet based on the information I had. I support Stand With Parkland, they’ve done really great things.”
Guttenberg said he had no idea about the meeting and did not need to know of its taking place, but the White House schedule “made it look like they were meeting with the Parkland families considering the two-year mark.”
“It was trying, in my eyes, to take advantage of an emotional moment. So I put out a tweet only knowing the public schedule, not knowing what the meeting was or who it was with,” Guttenberg told Newsweek.
“I support the families who were there yesterday, but I’m very disappointed in the White House.”
White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham told Newsweek that guests at the event were chosen by Stand with Parkland and was to discuss the School Safety Clearinghouse.
“Stand with Parkland determined the invitations. They chose to invite families that have worked tirelessly with the Administration to develop the clearinghouse,” Grisham said.
The group has been contacted for comment.