President Obama plans to leave an empty seat in the House gallery next week when he delivers his final State of the Union address to symbolize the victims of gun violence in the United States, a senior administration official said Friday.
Presidents typically invite carefully selected guests to the annual speech to reflect various policy and political priorities for the year and to honor members of the armed forces. But this will be the first time in his seven years in office that Mr. Obama has left a seat unfilled to make a point.
The gesture will be the latest part of a concerted White House public relations blitz in recent days promoting more regulation of firearms.
Everyone who hears about this has the same thought: Why commemorate one class of victims but not another? Are American soldiers who died carrying out Obama’s orders unworthy of an empty seat? American citizens killed by illegal immigrants whom Obama failed to deport? Here’s Ted Cruz racing down the court for the easy lay-up:
— Ted Cruz (@tedcruz) January 8, 2016
An empty seat is a fitting way to mark Obama’s commitment to this issue in that it’s entirely symbolic. The point, again, of the big gun-control push this year is for O to show off his virtue to his liberal admirers, not to do anything that’ll meaningfully reduce gun crime. In fact, even though the public supports expanding background checks generally, they’re under no illusions about what Obama’s executive action will accomplish:
Almost 6 in 10 say these measures will not be effective in reducing the number of gun-related deaths in the United States. That sentiment is particularly strong among gun owners, 75% of whom say they doubt the changes will reduce gun deaths…
Despite … shifts toward the positive in reviews of Obama’s handling of gun laws, most Americans say they oppose Obama’s use of executive actions to make these changes, 54% oppose it, while just 44% support that mode of action. Here, the partisan divide is wide: 78% of Democrats say they favor Obama’s use of executive actions, while 79% of Republicans oppose it. Independents generally oppose the move, 61% opposed to 37% in favor.
No matter. The quest for ever emptier, yet media-friendly, gestures on guns continues apace. Here’s Josh Earnest telling reporters today that O hasn’t ruled out further executive action, even though the universe of regulations he could impose that might survive a legal challenge is even smaller now than it was last week. Exit quotation from Scott Shackford: “When I’m president, there will be an empty seat in the State of the Union guest box to honor everybody who had better things to do.”