WASHINGTON – Rep. Matt Gaetz attempted to turn a congressional hearing on gun violence into a discussion of illegal immigration on Wednesday and tried to eject one member of the audience whose son was killed in the 2018 mass shooting at a Parkland, Florida, high school.
“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,” the Florida Republican said at a House Judiciary Committee hearing.
Gaetz then advocated for President Donald Trump’s proposed wall on the U.S.-Mexico border.
Gaetz said a universal background check recently proposed by Rep. Mike Thompson, D-Calif., would not have stopped crimes committed by undocumented migrants, “but a wall, a barrier on the southern border may have, and that’s what we’re fighting for.”
At that point, Manuel Oliver – whose son Joaquin was among the 17 people killed in the Feb. 14, 2018, shooting at Marjory Stoneham Douglas High School – stood up and shouted at Gaetz. Frank Guttenberg, whose daughter Jaime was also a victim in the shooting, was seated beside Oliver and he too shouted back at Gaetz.
Guttenberg told HuffPost that Oliver shouted, “That’s a lie. That’s not true.”
“And I yelled out that our children were killed by an American male,” Guttenberg said.
Judiciary Committee Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., admonished the men for their interruption, telling them, “No matter what you think of what any member of the committee may say, or any witness for that matter, you must not comment or otherwise demonstrate.”
Gaetz resumed his statement and said he hopes “that we’ll deal with all of the drivers of violence. The greatest 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.”
At that point, Oliver and Guttenberg again shouted angrily from the audience and Nadler again pounded his gavel and told them to remain quiet. He explained he could have them removed at his discretion if they continued to interrupt.
Rep. David Cicilline, D-R.I., asked Nadler if there were “any committee rule that prevents a member of Congress from reciting false statements in a committee hearing that are unsupported by the evidence.”
“Or are members of Congress entitled to just make things up in support of specious arguments?” he asked.
Later, Gaetz repeatedly pointed his finger in the direction of Oliver and Guttenberg and asked Nadler if there wasn’t some rule under which he could have them ejected. Oliver shouted and pointed his own finger back at Gaetz
“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,” Gaetz said.
He said it was “deeply troubling” that Cicilline would question the threat posed by migrants who enter the country illegally.
“If we really cared about safer streets, we would build a wall and secure the border,” he said.
After Gaetz finished, Rep. Steve Cohen, D-Tenn., asked expert witness Robyn Thomas, the executive director of the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, how many of the recent perpetrators of mass shootings had illegally crossed the southern border.
Cohen feigned shock when Thomas said none of them had, to her knowledge.
“I got confused. I thought illegal aliens, when they got in they went straight to a taco shop, got a gun and started killing people,” Cohen said sarcastically.
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