President Obama is making large efforts to dedicate his last year in office to taking executive action on gun control. In fact, one of the more immediate steps he’s taking to address the issue will take place this Tuesday during the State of the Union address. According to The Huffington Post, White House administrators plan to leave a seat empty in the first lady’s box to honor slain victims due to gun violence.
A White House official said the seat will be left empty to give victims a voice, “because they need the rest of us to speak for them. To tell their stories. To honor their memory. To support the Americans whose lives have been forever changed by the terrible ripple effect of gun violence—survivors who’ve had to learn to live with a disability, or without the love of their life. To remind every single one of our representatives that it’s their responsibility to do something about this.”
Historically, the White House spends a significant amount of time deciding who will sit next to the first lady, but this year, the high-profile spot will reflect a larger issue with the hopes to eventually close holes in the federal background check system for gun purchases.
“The gun lobby may be holding Congress hostage right now, but they cannot hold America hostage. We do not need to accept this carnage as the price of freedom,” Obama said in a recent speech at the white house.
The decision to leave a seat empty during the president’s speech is not unheard of. In fact, according to the White House, first lady Laura Bush’s box in 2003 symbolized “the empty place many Americans will always have at their tables and in their lives because of the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.”