Parkland parent interrupts congressional hearing on gun violence

Rep. Matt Gaetz sought to have him removed after he objected to his remarks

By Tim Swift - Local10.com Digital Editor

WASHINGTON - U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz, a Florida Republican, sought to eject the father of one of the victims of the Parkland school shooting from a congressional hearing on gun violence Wednesday after he interrupted the congressman's remarks. 

The committee's chairman, Rep. Jerry Nadler, a New York Democrat, warned Manuel Oliver, whose son Joaquin was killed in the shooting, not to interrupt, but stopped short of removing him from the hearing.

Oliver objected to Gaetz's remarks, which sought to tie illegal immigrants to the issue of gun violence. 

"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.

Gaetz, who represents the Panhandle and is a staunch ally of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and President Donald Trump, said expanded background checks -- the subject of the hearing -- wouldn't stop immigrants from obtaining weapons and committing crimes but a southern border wall would.

"If we really cared about safer streets, we would build a wall and secure the border, and we would do it post haste," Gaetz said.

Rep. Matt Gaetz used a hearing on background checks for gun owners to advocate for a southern border wall.

Oliver stood up from the gallery and shouted several comments, including "That's not true."

Fred Guttenberg, whose daughter Jamie was killed in the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Feb. 14, 2018, was sitting next to Oliver and also interjected that Parkland gunman Nikolas Cruz was "an American male."

"As a guest of the committee, and no matter what you think of whatever a member of the committee may say, or any witness for that matter, you must not comment," Nadler said. "No comments or demonstrations please."

Oliver and Guttenberg were in Washington to attend Tuesday's State of the Union address. Oliver was a guest of Rep. Ted Deutch, a Boca Raton Democrat, while House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a California Democrat, invited Guttenberg.

"Manuel Oliver and Fred Guttenberg are heroes, and have lived through enough trauma without Rep. Matt Gaetz being too immature to handle constituents voicing their disagreement with his positions," Stoneman Douglas graduate Emma Gonzalez said on Twitter.

The hearing also included testimony by 17-year-old Aalayah Eastmond, a Stoneman Douglas senior who survived the shooting. She received a standing ovation after her testimony.

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