Empty seat will honor victims of gun violence at 2016 State of the Union

A seat in the first lady’s box will be intentionally left empty to honor victims of gun violence during the President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address next week, the White House said Friday.

The guest list during a president’s State of the Union address is a meticulously assigned affair, down to who sits next to the first lady. The selected guests strategically represent policy points the president wants to make.

In a ramp-up to the annual speech on Tuesday, Obama has been making the case for more gun control measures, peaking with an emotional speech on his executive steps to enact more gun restrictions. The president then followed the announcement with a televised town hall meeting on reducing gun violence.

The Washington Post pointed out that the last time a seat was left unfilled was in 2003. There was an empty seat in first lady Laura Bush’s box then that paid tribute to victims of the Sept. 11 attacks.

The symbolic gesture at this year’s address, however, does not mean it will focus solely on gun deaths or regulation, White House aides told the New York Times.

Watch President Barack Obama deliver the 2016 State of the Union address 9 p.m. EST, Jan. 12.