On Wednesday, during the House’s first gun violence hearing in eight years, Florida Representative Matt Gaetz tried to remove Parkland parents from the audience. The parents took issue with Gaetz’s derision of H.R. 8, an act that would require background checks for every gun purchase in America. Gaetz asserted that Donald Trump’s proposed border wall should be a primary focus in the gun violence debate instead.
Manuel Oliver’s 17-year-old son Joaquin Oliver died during the February 14, 2018 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. At the House Judiciary Committee hearing, Oliver repeatedly interrupted Gaetz, who used his platform to decry gun crimes committed by undocumented immigrants.
“As we hear the stories and circumstances for those here, I hope we do not forget the pain and anguish and sense of loss felt by those all over the country who have been the victims of violence at the hands of illegal aliens,” said Gaetz. “H.R. 8 would not have stopped many of the circumstances I raised, but a wall—a barrier on the southern border—may have, and that’s what we’re fighting for.”
Among a sea of murmurs, Oliver stood up and reportedly said, “That’s not true!”
He was given a warning from House Judiciary Chairman Jerrod Nadler.
Gaetz went on to say that he hopes to tackle all sources of violence, but that, “the greatest drivers of violence in the circumstances that I indicated was not the firearm. It was the fact that we have an immigration system that allows people to come here violently—”
There was another burst of interruption from Oliver and Fred Guttenberg, whose daughter Jamie was also killed at Parkland.
Gaetz began pointing in Oliver and Guttenberg’s direction and asked Nadler if they could be ejected from the audience. Nadler gave another warning instead.
“I’d observe that’s three interruptions of my time by the same individual, and that the Chair is not utilizing his discretion to remove that individual,” said Gaetz.
Oliver told CNN that he found Gaetz’s comments offensive and a waste of time.
“Don’t bring the wall as a solution for everything,” Oliver said. He added, “If this is how this is going to work, I have to stop this guy. I have to let the nation know he’s wrong.”
Oliver called Gaetz unqualified to speak on gun violence. The National Rifle Association endorsed Gaetz and donated money to his congressional run last year. It’s safe to say that Oliver’s assessment is sound.