The President’s annual State of the Union Address can effectively act as a thermometer of the nation’s post-election mood and bring the issues back to a new Congress. But it is also executive grandstanding at its finest. It was true when Woodrow Wilson, the schoolmaster of politics, revived the practice in 1913—and it is still true today. But the new and divided 118th Congress has already proven ready and capable of making their prerogatives as obvious as jeers from their pews and the pins on their lapels.
Rep. George Santos (R-New York) and Rep. Alina Paulina Luna (R-Florida) were spotted wearing brass AR-15 lapel pins in lieu of the usual American flag pin on the day of the State of the Union Address. The two freshmen representatives wasted no time before the address in establishing themselves as the latest and most controversial members of the Freedom Caucus. Santos is noted for the half-truths and falsehoods relating to his resume and personal life. Luna, the first Mexican-American woman to represent Florida, styles herself as unapologetically pro-Trump and pro-2A. Never mind that support for the former does not equal support for the latter.
Santos wore his AR lapel pin at the address proper while Luna was spotted wearing the same pin during committee meetings earlier in the day to pledge support for the Second Amendment–and clearly done to cause consternation.
Some Democratic lawmakers such as Rep. Jimmy Gomez (D-California) took the bait. Gomez said the display “lacked common decency” on the heels of a few high-profile mass shootings in his home state.
Rep. Andrew Clyde (R-GA) claimed responsibility for handing out the pins. Clyde is a pro-2A firebrand and owns one of the largest gun stores in his home state of Georgia. On the subsequent backlash, Clyde cooly responded, “If I missed you on the House floor, please stop by my office in Cannon. I have plenty more to give out.”