Wednesday, April 17

Parkland father interrupts Biden speech on gun violence law

Manuel Oliver, whose son Joaquin was killed in the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School massacre, interrupted President Joe Biden’s speech Monday during a White House event commemorating the new law aimed at reducing gun violence.

Oliver could be heard shouting, but exactly what he said wasn’t audible on the video stream of the event on the White House grounds or to some news reporters present at the event.

Politico reported that when Biden said the new law is proof “we can make meaningful progress on dealing with gun violence,” Oliver yelled, “We have to do more than that!” adding that “I’ve been trying to tell you this for years.”

At one point, Biden said Oliver should be allowed to speak, but he was escorted out. It’s highly unusual for a president to be interrupted by an invited guest at a White House event.

“Sit down, you’ll hear what I have to say,” Biden said when first interrupted. “Let me finish my comments.” Then, the president said, “Let him talk. Let him talk.”

Family members of people killed in the Feb. 14, 2018, massacre during which 17 people were killed and 17 injured, were in the White House, along with relatives of many other mass shootings, and dozens of members of Congress and elected officials.

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They were attending what a White House invitation called “an event celebrating the passage of the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act.” Among those who said they planned to be at the White House were state Sen. Shevrin Jones, a Democrat who represents parts of South Broward and Miami-Dade counties, and state Rep. Dan Daley, a Democrat who represents northwest Broward. Linda Beigel Schulman said on Facebook she planned to be at the White House event. Her son de ella, Scott Beigel, a Stoneman Douglas teacher and coach, was among those killed at the school.

Ryan Petty, whose daughter Alaina, was killed at the Parkland school, said what Oliver did was inappropriate.

“I was invited to today’s press conference at the White House. I could not in good conscience attend because I do not support this President or this legislation. However, the office of the President deserves respect. Interrupting him is not the way to change hearts and minds,” Petty wrote on Twitter.

Biden referenced the Parkland massacre during his speech. But in a sign of how many mass shootings take place in the US, the speakers other than Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris came from two more recent, high-profile shootings: Uvalde and Buffalo.

Oliver strenuously objected to describing the event as a celebration.

“I’ve been calling out using the word ‘celebration,’ getting together like we’re going … a party to a wedding today, you know you would all receive invitations. And meanwhile you can see these mothers [from Uvalde, Texas] that just saw how their kids were massacred inside the school,” Oliver said Monday on CNN.

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Oliver and his wife Patricia supported Biden’s election — and introduced him at a Broward campaign rally five days before the 2020 election.

Since then he’s made his frustration with the well-known slow pace of action. On the fourth anniversary of the Stoneman Douglas massacre, Oliver climbed up a construction crane near the White House and unfurled a banner calling for action on gun control legislation.

Oliver, like many other family members of people killed during the Stoneman Douglas massacre, said he supports the new law that was the subject of Monday’s event.

But, he said, it was inadequate. “I really wish there was more in this package of bills and I will do whatever I can to get more in this package,” he said.

Jones, the state senator, said on Twitter that there is still “a lot of work to do, but this is a step in the right direction” to making schools and communities safer.

Oliver and Fred Guttenberg, whose daughter Jaime was killed in the Stoneman Douglas massacre, said Monday they aren’t optimistic anything would happen soon.

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Oliver said he expected inaction. “Congress hasn’t done much for a long time. So this is like giving a green light to Congress to wait another 30 years to do something else? But guess what? We’re not going to let that happen, ”Oliver said, vowing not to slow down his activism.

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Two hours later he was yelling at the president.

Guttenberg, speaking Wednesday on MSNBC, said he would not slow the push for more restrictions on guns.

“This is an election year and I don’t think legislation is going to happen. So the next step is everyone needs to show up in November and vote for gun safety candidates. We need to vote to add more of them in the Senate and more of them in the House,” Gutenberg said.

“If people like the fact that we are finally able to take some steps to solve gun violence, send more of those like the ones who got this deal done,” he said. “There’s so much more we can do and none of it, none of it is an affront to the Second Amendment, but it will save lives.”

Guttenberg, who often endorses Democrats, stressed bipartisanship on Monday. “I always promised that I would publicly embrace anyone on the right side of this legislation. I am proud to say that I just gave @JohnCornyn a big bear hug,” he wrote on Twitter. Cornyn, a Republican senator from Texas, led the Republican side of the negotiations that led to the new gun law.

Anthony Man can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @browardpolitics

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