President Obama told supporters Friday that he’ll leave one seat empty in the first lady’s State of the Union guest box next week to represent victims of gun violence.
In a conference call with about 20,000 activists, the president said the gesture during his annual address to Congress Tuesday night will “remind every single one of our representatives that it’s their responsibility to do something.”
“We’re going to leave one seat empty in the first lady’s State of the Union guest box for victims of gun violence who no longer have a voice,” Mr. Obama said. “We want them to be seen and understood, that their absence means something to this country.”
The president took executive actions Tuesday to restrict gun ownership, including expanded background checks on gun purchases. He urged grassroots supporters on the call arranged by Organizing For Action, a spin-off of his re-election campaign, to feel “a sense of urgency” for his gun-control agenda.
“I’m going to take every action I can as president, and every action I can take as citizen,” Mr. Obama said. “I’m not going to campaign, support or vote for any candidate, even in my own party, who doesn’t support common-sense gun reform.”
He added, “If the the 90 percent of Americans who support common-sense gun reforms join me, then people are going to start acting a little differently in Congress.”
OFA officials told activists to join organizations like Everytown, the gun-control group headed by former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, and the progressive group Moveon.org, to connect with state and local gun-control movements.
Referring to the empty seat at the State of the Union address, Mr. Obama said “these kinds of important gestures only matter if it translates into action.”
“I’m relying on all of you to demand a Congress that’s brave enough to stand up to the gun lobby’s mischaracterizations and misrepresentations,” he said. “I’m calling on all of you to demand governors and state legislatures who do their part to make our communities safer.”