Father of Parkland shooting victim interrupts Biden speech at White House
President Biden on Monday was interrupted by Manuel Oliver, the father of mass shooting victim Joaquin Oliver, during an event at the White House held to celebrate the passage of the bipartisan gun control bill.
Oliver, whose son was killed in the 2018 mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., was eventually escorted out of the event on the White House lawn.
Biden was saying the country could make meaningful progress on gun violence when he was interrupted by Oliver, who stood to make his voice clear. The event was carried live on some cable television networks.
“Because make no mistake—” Biden said when he stopped to try to hear what Oliver was saying.
“Sit down, you’ll hear what I have to say, if you think—” Biden said.
Oliver appeared to be suggesting the legislation did not go far enough, but much of his comments were inaudible to the crowd.
“I’ve been trying to tell you this for years, for years,” Oliver said.
“We have one, let me finish my comment … let him talk, let him talk,” Biden said.
White House personnel then escorted Oliver out of the event. The event was attended by advocates from various gun violence prevention groups and survivors and family members of victims of mass shootings from across the country.
“Because make no mistake about it, this legislation is real progress, but more has to be done,” Biden continued.
Biden had met with Oliver earlier this year and Oliver has also had recent meetings and calls with White House senior leadership, according to officials.
White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre on Monday mistakenly told reporters that Oliver had met with Biden on Monday, before the event that he interrupted.
When asked about the nature of that conversation, she did not give details about what they spoke about and said she wasn’t part of the meeting.
“The president understands what loss feels like. Our hearts go out to Mr. Oliver… we agree with him, we need to do more. The president stated that in his speech today,” she told reporters.
White House officials then later corrected her and said the meeting was not on Monday.
Oliver went on CNN earlier on Monday to criticize the use of the word “celebration” for Monday’s event.
“It’s been a while that I’ve been calling out that using the words celebration, getting together, it’s like we’re going to a party, to a wedding today, you know, we all received invitations. And meanwhile, you can see these mothers in Uvalde that just saw how their kids were massacred inside a school,” he said.
He argued that the bipartisan gun control bill is not enough and that there should have been tougher provisions in the legislation.
“I really wish there was more in this package of bills and I will do everything, whatever I can to get more in this package of bills,” he told CNN. “This is not the beginning or the end … this is part of a process and there was no reason for this event to be called as it’s called right now. We are celebrating and getting together in the White House — there’s no space for that word.”
The gun control legislation has been criticized for not going far as Democrats and advocates would have wanted, and Biden has been criticized for largely waiting on the sidelines for a bipartisan group of senators to finalize the bill.
The shooting at a Fourth of July parade in Highland Park, Ill., which came weeks after Biden signed the bill into law, also left Democrats and allies frustrated the administration isn’t doing enough to prevent the next attack.
Biden reiterated his calls for an assault weapons ban and other actions toward gun violence prevention, like expanding background checks, at the event on Monday.
He has called on Congress to reinstate the 1994 ban on assault weapons, which expired in 2004, since the start of his administration, but a ban is hardly likely to pass the Senate, where Democrats need 10 Republicans to vote with them to overcome the 60-vote threshold to advance most legislation.
Updated at 5:28 p.m.