A congressional hearing on gun violence erupted into recriminations today after Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) called for the removal of two fathers whose children were killed in last year’s mass shooting in Parkland, Fla.

Gaetz is known on the Hill for his unwavering support of the gun lobby, and unquestioned loyalty to President Trump.

Gaetz prompted an outcry from the Parkland fathers when he argued at a House Judiciary Committee hearing that illegal immigration is a greater threat to public safety than gun violence.

The panel was discussing H.R. 8, a bipartisan measure introduced in the House last month that would require background checks for all gun sales and most gun transfers.

“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,” Gaetz said. “H.R. 8 would not have stopped many of the circumstances I raised, but a wall — a barrier on the southern border — may have, and that’s what we’re fighting for.”

Joaquin “Guac” Oliver

Two Parkland fathers, Manuel Oliver and Fred Guttenberg, were seated in the audience.

Oliver, who lost his son Joaquin in the shooting, stood up and protested Gaetz’s remarks; Guttenberg, whose daughter Jaime was killed, also spoke out.

Seventeen students and staff members were killed in the Feb. 14, 2018, shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

The committee’s chairman, Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), called for order and reminded audience members not to speak out during hearings.

But moments later, as Gaetz resumed speaking and argued that undocumented immigrants are a greater threat than firearms, he again prompted a retort from Oliver.

After another admonition from Nadler, the room quieted down, and Rep. David N. Cicilline (D-R.I.) posed a question.

“Is there 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, prompting applause from some in the room.

Later, Gaetz pointed his finger at Oliver and Guttenberg, asking whether there is a committee process that calls for audience members to be ejected for repeatedly interrupting members.

Gaetz said he didn’t know at the time that Oliver had lost a son in the Parkland shooting, but he would have reacted the same way had he known.

Guttenberg was seated next to Oliver.

Guttenberg wrote he too shouted at Gaetz, yelling that the Parkland killer “was an American male.”

The hearing was the first on gun control in years.

Democrats have made the issue a priority since retaking control of the House last month.

Any gun-control legislation stands little chance of proceeding in the Senate, however, where Republicans retain the majority.

 

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