Two progressive Democratic House freshmen from Florida and Texas invited parents of two victims of school shootings as their guests for President Biden's State of the Union address on Tuesday.
Rep. Greg Casar (D-Texas) invited Brett Cross, whose son Uziyah García was one of the 19 schoolchildren who died at Robb Elementary in Uvalde, Texas, on May 24, 2022; Rep. Maxwell Frost (D-Fla.) will host Manuel Oliver, the father of Joaquín Oliver, one of 17 victims of the 2018 Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Parkland, Fla.
"I think there's power in that we're both from the South, we're both Latinos, we're both from states that are controlled by Republican legislatures and governors who have not acted on gun violence - in fact, not just not acted, they're actively passing legislation that will cause more gun violence," Frost told The Hill.
"And we're taking two fathers who have lost children at school, and we're bringing them to the Capitol to hear from the president and we're going to talk about ending gun violence and what we think needs to happen."
A spokesperson for Casar told The Hill late Monday evening Cross would not be able to make the trip to Washington, but did not state a reason.
Frost, 26, currently the youngest member of Congress, and Casar, 33, both grew up and attended school in an era when school shootings proliferated in the United States.
In a joint statement, the two lawmakers said they chose their guests to highlight "the continued need for gun reform and gun violence prevention."
As candidates, both were endorsed by the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, a nonprofit organization that was renamed in honor of former Rep. Gabby Giffords (D-Ariz.), a survivor of gun violence.
Frost's political career started as a teenager, as an organizer focused on gun violence prevention at March For Our Lives in the wake of Parkland and the 2012 Sandy Hook shooting.
"I'm a survivor of gun violence and gun violence was the reason I got involved in politics in the first place 10 years ago when I was 15 years old, because I didn't want to get shot at school," said Frost.
"Before I even launched my campaign, I promised Manuel Oliver that I would bring him to my first State of the Union. He supported me a lot, not just in the campaign but just in general."
Oliver, a vocal advocate for gun safety, was escorted out of the White House last July after interrupting Biden's speech on the issue.
Frost said he didn't expect any interruptions if Biden addresses the issue, but repeated his plea for the executive to act more aggressively on gun violence.
"I do believe that the administration needs to do more in way of ending gun violence and using executive action to do so. But I think that the president has a great opportunity to lay that out tomorrow night," said Frost.
Casar and Frost first met as candidates in early 2022, and have remained in touch since, but the joint statement on their State of the Union guests is their first official collaboration.
Both lawmakers are members of a record-breaking freshman class of nine that joined the Congressional Hispanic Caucus this year.
Casar represents San Antonio, the closest major city to Uvalde.
Cross, Casar's would-be guest, has also become a voice for the families of victims of gun violence following the Robb Elementary shooting.
"Brett Cross has been such a powerful voice for his son and for all Americans," said Casar.
"No child, no parent, no community should have to go through what Texans suffered in Uvalde. I'm joining with Brett to honor his son, Uziyah Garcia - and to call for ending assault weapon sales, passing red flag laws and universal background checks, and ending permitless carry."
-Updated at 10:06 p.m.
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