WASHINGTON – Clad in his trademark orange tie and ribbon, the guest of honor had reached his breaking point.
Fred Guttenberg, the father of slain Parkland student Jamie Guttenberg, simmered with anger Tuesday during President Donald Trump’s State of the Union address. Trump discussed immigrants who committed crimes and declared that “human life is a sacred gift from God!”
Guttenberg felt as if something was missing. What about people killed by gun violence like his daughter, slain two years ago in a massacre at her school? He leaned over to a fellow guest of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and said he was on the verge of losing it.
And when Trump said gun rights were “under siege all across our country,” Guttenberg did lose it, he said, after he shouted about victims like Jamie.
“My emotions were stewing,” Guttenberg, 54, told The Washington Post on Wednesday, hours after he says he was handcuffed and detained by the Capitol Police. “I was so upset.”
He roared at the tail end of an applause line from Trump, who had said, “So long as I am president, I will always protect your Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms.”
A member of security quickly swooped in to escort Guttenberg from the gallery. Democratic lawmakers turned around to see the incident unfold, and some stood in applause for Guttenberg as he was led away.
It was the beginning of a long night for Guttenberg. He was handcuffed and detained for roughly two hours, he said, though he acknowledged the memory was a blur. The police were cordial. “They were doing their job,” he said.
Guttenberg was released after what he described as an intervention from Pelosi’s office, and he spoke to her afterward. But he declined to provide further details, describing the ordeal as traumatic. He pointed to a statement he released over social media early Wednesday morning.
“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,” he wrote on Twitter. Referring to the amendment, he wrote, “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.”
He added in a follow-up tweet: “That said, I should not have yelled out. I am thankful for the overwhelming support that I am receiving. However, I do owe my family and friends an apology. I have tried to conduct myself with dignity throughout this process and I will do better as I pursue gun safety.”
(2,2) That said, I should not have yelled out. I am thankful for the overwhelming support that I am receiving. However, I do owe my family and friends an apology. I have tried to conduct myself with dignity throughout this process and I will do better as I pursue gun safety.
— Fred Guttenberg (@fred_guttenberg) February 5, 2020
Spokespeople for Pelosi and the U.S. Capitol Police did not return a request for comment.
Guttenberg, perhaps the most outspoken parent to emerge from the 2018 killings at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, has advocated for gun control measures through his nonprofit Orange Ribbons for Jamie.
He criticized Trump for how he characterized as a national attack on gun laws. While Virginia passed gun control measures in late January, firearm laws across the country have generally been favorable to gun rights activists in recent years. In Texas, for instance, gun rights have expanded amid recent mass shootings.
Guttenberg said he plucked one development from the incident that encouraged him:
“I’m glad today people are talking about gun violence.”