Guttenberg thought something was missing. What about people killed by gun violence like his daughter, killed in a massacre at her high school in Florida? 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, and 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 Capitol Police. “I was so upset.”
He roared at the tail end of an applause line from Trump, who 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 about two hours, he said, although he acknowledged that it 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 said on Twitter.
Referring to the Second 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.”
A spokesperson for Pelosi did not return a request for comment.
The Capitol Police, which described the incident as a “verbal outburst,” said Guttenberg “was removed from the Gallery, briefly detained, and released,” according to Eva Malecki, a police spokesperson.
Guttenberg, perhaps the most outspoken parent to emerge from the 2018 killings at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, has advocated gun-control measures through his nonprofit organization, Orange Ribbons for Jaime.
He criticized Trump for what he characterized as a national attack on gun laws. While Virginia passed gun-control measures in late January, firearm laws nationwide 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.”
Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated Fred Guttenberg’s first name. It has been updated.