Prospective Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh turned his back on the grieving father of one of the students killed in the Parkland mass shooting during his Senate confirmation hearing Tuesday.
Fred Guttenberg, whose 14-year-old daughter Jaime was among the 17 students killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in February, approached the circuit court judge and former Bush White House staffer to introduce himself and shake Kavanaugh’s hand during a midday recess Tuesday afternoon.
After Guttenberg extended his hand, however, Kavanaugh appeared to glance at him momentarily before turning around and walking away, without returning his greeting. The moment was captured on video and showed Guttenberg pointing and calling out to Kavanaugh as he left the room, and what appeared to be a security officer walking up to Guttenberg as the camera cut away.
It is unclear from the audio what Guttenberg said, although ShareBlue reporter Tommy Christopher reported that Guttenberg told Kavanaugh, “My daughter was murdered.”
Guttenberg tweeted about the exchange afterward.
“Just walked up to Judge Kavanaugh as morning session ended. Put out my hand to introduce myself as Jaime Guttenberg’s dad,” he said. “I guess he did not want to deal with the reality of gun violence.”
Fred Guttenberg, the father of Jamie Guttenberg who was killed in the shooting in Parkland, Fla., left, tries to shake hands with @realDonaldTrump's Supreme Court nom., Brett Kavanaugh, right, during a lunch break. Kavanaugh did not shake his hand. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik) @ap pic.twitter.com/smcCGuLT6X
— Andrew Harnik (@andyharnik) September 4, 2018
— Tommy Christopher (@tommyxtopher) September 4, 2018
Just walked up to Judge Kavanaugh as morning session ended. Put out my hand to introduce myself as Jaime Guttenberg's dad. He pulled his hand back, turned his back to me and walked away. I guess he did not want to deal with the reality of gun violence.
— Fred Guttenberg (@fred_guttenberg) September 4, 2018
In a tweet Tuesday afternoon, White House Deputy Press Secretary Raj Shah responded to the controversy, claiming an “unidentified individual” had approached Kavanaugh prior to lunch break, and that he was promptly escorted out by security.
As Judge Kavanaugh left for his lunch break, an unidentified individual approached him. Before the Judge was able to shake his hand, security had intervened. https://t.co/ylOhtA1s6G
— Raj Shah (@RajShah45) September 4, 2018
“Before the Judge was able to shake his hand, security had intervened,” he said.
Video of the moment did not support Shah’s account.
Since his daughter’s murder, Fred Guttenberg has been a passionate advocate for stricter gun control, previously telling Marie Claire that he’d dedicate the rest of his life to fighting against gun violence and supporting common-sense gun reforms.
“We can’t let this become invisible,” he said. “I’m tired, but people are counting on me — people with children. I just can’t let it happen to another parent.”
The Trump administration made a decision last week to withhold more than 100,000 pages of record from Kavanaugh’s time as attorney and staff secretary with the Bush administration. Democrats are currently trying to use the unreleased documents to slow down the confirmation hearing on procedural grounds, but it also limits the amount of time in which Democrats can grill him about his record on gun control.
Kavanaugh’s judicial writings have already yielded telling information as to how he might decide on the topic, if confirmed to the Supreme Court. In one 2011 appeals court ruling, Kavanaugh dissented on Washington D.C.’s decision to ban semi-automatic weapons. “Gun bans and gun regulations that are not longstanding or sufficiently rooted in text, history, and tradition are not consistent with the Second Amendment individual right,” he wrote, asserting that any new gun control regulation, in his view, would be fundamentally unconstitutional.
Already, gun rights advocates have expressed optimism that Kavanaugh could shift the legal landscape in their favor. “[Kavanaugh, Justice Clarence Thomas, and Justice Neil Gorsuch are] the kind of gun-rights justices that you could reliably see striking down a bunch of regulations, [like] 10-day waiting periods, magazine restrictions, assault weapons bans, things like that,” Trevor Burrus, a research fellow and gun rights advocate at the libertarian Cato Institute, told NPR in July.
Justice Samuel Alito and Chief Justice John Roberts could ultimately provide supporting votes that help them push gun rights reversals over the finish line, he added.