At the first House committee hearing on gun violence in years, Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) tried to get a father of a shooting victim removed from the proceedings after he spoke up when Gaetz proposed a southern border wall would prevent gun violence.
The committee members were discussing H.R. 8, a bipartisan-backed bill that would require background checks for all gun sales and most gun transfers. Gaetz firmly opposed it.
“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,” Gaetz said. “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.”
As soon as Gaetz mentioned a wall, Manuel Oliver stood up and shouted. Oliver lost his 17-year-old son, Joaquin, in the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida last year. Fred Guttenberg, another Parkland victim’s father, also spoke out.
The Florida congressman continued to push the idea of a wall while discrediting H.R. 8, which led to another interruption form Oliver.
Gaetz pointed his finger repeatedly at the Parkland father and asked the chairman if he could be removed for interrupting.
Watch the video below:
During today’s House hearing on #HR8, Rep. Matt Gaetz said building “the wall” would be more effective than background checks. He then got into an argument with @manueloliver00, whose son Joaquin was killed in Parkland, and tried to have him ejected. pic.twitter.com/8KjC8r9BWB
— Shannon Watts (@shannonrwatts) February 6, 2019
Oliver appeared on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” the next day to talk about the experience.
“A member of this commission that should be qualified to sit down and understand our concerns, not only my personal concern as a father of a victim but there’s also a lot of young people in this room trying to stay alive,” Oliver said Thursday morning.
“It was very offensive that the only side of the story that seems to bother them is this wall that seems to be the solution to all our problems.”
Oliver said it was fair that he got a warning for interrupting, but people shouldn’t be surprised by his reaction.
“I just reacted as a father,” he reasoned. “I am still Joaquin’s dad and I will be Joaquin’s dad till the last day that I am here. Anybody that offends my kid will receive an answer from me.”
The Parkland father-turned-activist said that the discussion surrounding the wall and illegal immigration is a “big contradiction” if Republicans don’t also discuss gun violence. “I don’t understand why some deaths are more important than others.”
Oliver and his family moved to the United States from Venezuela about 15 years ago and have since become American citizens. The family moved to Parkland because they believed it was a safe community with good schools.
“I’m an immigrant. I did things by the book,” Oliver explained. “My son came from Venezuela, I was trying to find a safer life in here, he got shot by an American white dude. So what’s the answer to that?”
Watch the interview below:
Oliver and fellow Parkland father Guttenberg were both guests at President Donald Trump’s State of the Union on Tuesday.