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Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fl.) tried to get the father of a victim of the Parkland shooting thrown out of a House Judiciary Committee hearing today about House Resolution 8 today.
HR 8 would require universal background checks for gun purchases, so it was probably a surprise to those unfamiliar with one of the NRA’s favorite cheerleaders when Gaetz derided the legislation as less effective than a border wall at diminishing gun violence.
“HR 8 would not have stopped many of the circumstances I raised, but a wall, a barrier would have and that’s what we’re fighting for,” he said.
Matt Gaetz derails #HR8 hearing claiming the real problem is illegal immigrants and a border wall will fix it. Parents of killed Parkland students become understandably upset. @RepMattGaetz then wags his finger and demands they be removed. DISGRACEFUL. pic.twitter.com/2jsSFWMdfD— Amee Vanderpool (@girlsreallyrule) February 6, 2019
This incredible leap of logic was too much for one man, who has since been identified as Manuel Oliver. Oliver, whose son Joaquin “Guac” Oliver, was killed in the Parkland, Florida school shooting, leaped to his feet and shouted down the congressman right in the middle of his big moment. “None of the shooters were that,” Oliver yelled as Gaetz looked on.
Order was soon restored, and Gaetz continued to make his straight-outta-left-field point about illegal immigration.
But calm was not to last. When Gaetz said, “The greater driver 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,” a second man interrupted, this time Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.).
“Is there any committee rules that prevents a member of Congress from reciting false statements to the committee hearing that are unsupported by the evidence … or are members of Congress entitled to just make things up in support of specious arguments?” an obviously exasperated Cicilline said.
After Chairman Red. Jarrod Nadler (D-N.Y.) declined to censure Gaetz, Rep. Doug Collins (R-Ga.) took it upon himself to defend Gaetz’s honor. First Collins accused Cicilline of “unparliamentary behavior” for accusing Gaetz of lying; when that didn’t work, he tried to get Oliver kicked out of the hearing. No dice on either.
With his bully pulpit safely restored, Gaetz—who is such “a friend of the president” that he tweeted thirteen clips of last night’s State of the Union from his official account during the speech—also tried to get Oliver ejected.
“Is there a process in the committee whereby if the very same people are repeatedly interrupting the time of the members that those people will be asked to depart the committee,” Gaetz said.
Here is the video of @RepMattGaetz trying to get the father of a student killed in Parkland, FL (@manueloliver00) THROWN OUT of a @HouseJudiciary hearing on reducing gun violence.— igorvolsky (@igorvolsky) February 6, 2019
This is beyond despicable. pic.twitter.com/YZF8EGW3hP
When Nadler refused, Gaetz quickly morphed into “I’d like to speak to your manager” mode.
“I’d observe that’s three interruptions by the same individual and that the chair is not utilizing his discretion to remove that individual,” he said.
The drama broke up more serious moments, perhaps most memorably the testimony of Parkland survivor Aalayah Eastmond. In heartbreaking detail, she described how classmate Nicholas Dworet saved her life that day. Dworet was killed in the first volley of bullets.
“As Nicholas fell, I matched his every movement and hid underneath his lifeless body as bullets riddled my classmates,” Eastmond said. “I thought I was going to die. As I lay there, I prayed to God to make it fast.”
In conclusion, she said, “I urge you to expand Brady backgrounds by voting for HR 8.”
Yet Gaetz apparently believes the Parkland victims would be alive and well today if they’d only erected a border wall, in a state that doesn’t touch Mexico.
Claire Goforth is a Jacksonville, Florida-based journalist covering politics, culture, justice, and unicorns. Her work has appeared in publications ranging from regional alt-weeklies to Al Jazeera.