By Bettina Weiss
While preventing gun violence was not a primary talking point in President Barack Obama’s last State of the Union Address, it was certainly present in the House Chamber on Tuesday night, as First Lady Michelle Obama sat next to an empty chair to represent victims of gun violence.
In a statement from the White House prior to the event, the seat was intended for, “the victims of gun violence who no longer have 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.”
Mrs. Obama stood out next to the empty chair, wearing a bright orange dress. Orange is the official color of gun violence prevention and was shown widely this past month when more than 100 Orange Walks took place around the country.
The President spent the better part of last week outlining his executive actions on gun violence. Although those proposals were missing from the speech, Millennials made it clear that gun violence prevention would be an important issue in the 2016 election: 82 percent of Millennials support background checks for all gun purchasers.
USA Today and Rock the Vote teamed up to poll Millennials, finding that while gun laws split congressional Democrats and Republicans, “there is almost no partisan divide on it among Millennials: 89% of young Democrats and 83% of young Republicans endorse universal background checks.” Requiring background checks for all gun purchases was found to be the number one agenda item for Millennials in 2016.