Opinion

I was at Trump’s State of the Union. I Shouldn’t Have Been | Opinion

Several days ago I was invited by Speaker Nancy Pelosi to attend the State Of the Union as her guest. She is arguably the second most powerful person in the country. While I should have felt good, and as if this was an amazing moment, I did not. I should not have been there. I should have been home watching on our couch with my complete family.

I cannot erase the reality that I was there because my daughter Jaime was murdered.

I was honored to be a guest of our Speaker, and the fact that so many victims of gun violence were there too made me feel optimistic that gun safety would be front and center at the State Of the Union. Victims of gun violence from across the country were present. From Parkland alone, in addition to my invitation from the Speaker, Charlie Mirsky of March For Our Lives was also invited by the Speaker, Manny Oliver, whose son Joaquin was killed, was invited by Congressman Deutch, activist and Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School survivor Cameron Kasky was invited by Congressman Swalwell, and Andrew Pollack, whose daughter Meadow was killed, was invited by Senator Scott.

There were other victims from across the country. Victims were invited by Representatives, Senators, Democrats and Republicans. My hope was that this speech would recognize the true national emergency of gun violence and recognize that it is is a bipartisan emergency. My hope was that this speech would provide a road map on how to deal with the reality of gun violence. Wow, was I disappointed.

Our president last night hit on several topics, but the one that stood out for me was his made up version of an emergency. His recitation of facts on undocumented immigrants and a crisis on our southern border was simply too much for me to take.

We do have a real crisis in this country, a real emergency. In the United States Of America, almost 40,000 people now die a year from gun violence. That is a higher rate than traffic accidents. The president refused to discuss that reality.

As the president knew during his speech, on the following day the first hearings in over eight years on gun violence prevention would be held by the House Judiciary committee. He could have mentioned that, and his hope to work with legislators on gun violence. He stayed silent. He stayed irrelevant. He chose to not be useful on this real emergency. He chose to focus on an issue that ignites his base and to ignore the rest of the country who deal with the reality of gun violence every day.

While watching this speech, sadly, I realized that had my daughter’s killer been an illegal immigrant, the president would have mentioned it. He failed to mention it because like so many victims of gun violence, she was killed by an American male. Even when the president mentioned the heroism of the Pittsburgh survivors, he failed to mention the fact that a gun, an AR-15 which made its way into a temple, was used to massacre people. Why doesn’t President Trump consider 40,000 people dying a national emergency?

Fred Guttenberg is the father of Jaime Guttenberg and the founder of Orange Ribbons For Jaime.

The views expressed in this article are the author's own.​​​​

jaime_guttenberg012 On February 14, 2018, 14-year-old Jaime Guttenberg was murdered at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. Jennifer Guttenberg

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