“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." Proposed legislation "would not have stopped the many of the circumstances I raised. But a wall, a barrier on the southern border may have.”
Those were the words spoken by Florida Representative Matt Gaetz. His remarks pinpointed illegal immigration, not guns, as a major factor behind acts of public violence that have plagued the nation over the past two decades. This was a hearing in subcommittee about mandatory background checks, and in the audience was Manuel Oliver, whose son Joaquin was killed almost exactly a year ago at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. In Florida.
Congressman Matt's remarks caused Mister Oliver to shout, "That's not true," which along with two other outbursts prompted the Representative to ask the committee's chair to have the grieving father removed from the hearing. The chairman Jerrold Nadler from New York, for his part, declined to eject anyone but warned, “It is never permissible for members of the audience to comment or to vociferously object. This is a hearing for members of Congress and the witnesses. Everyone else is here as an observer.”
The gallery was filled with members of the March for Our Lives movement, the organization that grew from the survivors of the Parkland shooting. Parkland, Florida. This was the first congressional hearing on gun violence in eight years.
And this is the part where I find myself wondering about the representative part of our democracy. Or maybe there's something about the Wall that I don't fully comprehend, like how it is going to keep the abundance of guns that are already here inside our borders from winding up killing Americans. And even if there was some magic that I don't understand, I wouldn't want to explain that to Manuel Oliver.