Parkland father rudely interrupts President Biden. Was he wrong?
Four years after his son Joaquin was shot and killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Broward County, Manuel Oliver’s pain is still raw.
Right or wrong, he took his personal fight to the White House lawn on Monday. On national television, Oliver rudely interrupted President Joe Biden during an event meant to celebrate what many consider a bipartisan, but watered-down, law to reduce gun violence.
“Today is many things. It’s proof that despite the naysayers, we can make meaningful progress in dealing with gun violence. Because make no mistake — ” Biden was saying when Oliver jumped up from his chair on the lawn.
“We have to do more than that!” Oliver yelled from the audience, startling guests and the president.
Television footage shows Oliver standing and shouting at Biden, who briefly turned into “tough Joe” and ordered Oliver to “Sit down, you’ll hear what I have to say. ... Let me finish my comments.”
Oliver, who has become a well-known gun control activist in Florida, was approached by security and then escorted out. Was he disrespectful? Yes. But was his behavior totally understandable? Yes, too.
Oliver’s outburst makes clear that no Minnie Mouse legislation will be enough until we do away with assault weapons. We, and every lawmaker, must be reminded of that daily — and sometimes rudely.
Social media has been mixed on whether Oliver should have shouted at the president. But then most on social media do not feel the pain Oliver and his wife continue to harbor at the violent loss of their 17-year-old to a troubled teen who legally purchased a weapon and turned into a vile school shooter on Feb. 14, 2018.
The new law in question, passed after recent mass shootings in Buffalo, New York, and Uvalde, Texas, incrementally toughens requirements for young people buying guns, denies firearms to more domestic abusers and helps local authorities temporarily take weapons from people judged to be dangerous.
Oliver appeared to be offended by the White House event, which may have overreached by billing the event billed as a celebration. Not much to celebrate, Oliver told reporters.
He later told a Miami Herald reporter: “There’s nothing to celebrate. It’s a big lie. We lie between ourselves thinking we have a solution to this when we actually don’t.”
Oliver is right, but what the president was trying to bring home is that in this arduous battle, small victories must be acknowledged.
The law comes a week after a gunman in Highland Park, Illinois, killed seven people at a Fourth of July parade.
Parkland parents, the Uvalde parents, the Sandy Hook parents and scores of other survivors of shooting victims have watched for years as nothing substantive has been passed by Congress or state governments to end or, at the very least, slow the sale of assault weapons in the United States.
Oliver’s anger may have been misplaced. Biden is not to blame; he has pushed to get at least some legislation passed.
Aggrieved Floridians could direct more blame toward Republican Florida Sens. Marco Rubio and Rick Scott, who voted against even this diluted legislation.
Oliver is not the first Parkland parent to stage the disruption of a national event. In 2020, Fred Guttenberg, whose 14-year-old daughter, Jaime, was also killed at Parkland, was a guest of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi when he disrupted then-President Donald Trump’s State of the Union address.
Oliver’s heart-wrenching outburst reminded us of the horror of Parkland. Yes, four years on, many of us have moved on. And for that, we’re to blame.