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Parkland father arrested during House hearing on gun rights

Manuel Oliver founded the gun control nonprofit Change the Ref after his son was killed

Manuel Oliver, whose son Joaquin was killed in the 2018 Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting, disrupts remarks by President Joe Biden during an event on the South Lawn of the White House last July. He was arrested Thursday during a House hearing.
Manuel Oliver, whose son Joaquin was killed in the 2018 Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting, disrupts remarks by President Joe Biden during an event on the South Lawn of the White House last July. He was arrested Thursday during a House hearing. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

A man whose son was killed in the 2018 Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting was arrested Thursday after disrupting a joint subcommittee hearing called by Republicans in defense of Second Amendment rights.

A Capitol Police spokesman confirmed Thursday that Manuel Oliver, 55, was arrested in the Rayburn House Office Building after he “disrupted and refused to stop shouting, and then attempted to go back inside the hearing room.”

Police on the scene engaged in a citation release arrest, which means Oliver was not placed into custody, according to the spokesman. He was given a court date to appear.

“Anyone who disrupts a Congressional hearing and disregards a law enforcement officer’s orders to stop are going to be arrested,” Capitol Police said in a statement.

The event was a joint subcommittee hearing of the House Judiciary and Oversight committees.

Oliver, who founded the gun control nonprofit Change the Ref after his son Joaquin was killed, was present at the hearing with his wife, Patricia. Both were kicked out of the hearing room following a verbal exchange with Rep. Pat Fallon, R-Texas.

The incident began a little more than two hours into the hearing, the topic of which was the Biden administration’s alleged attack on Americans’ Second Amendment rights. Patricia Oliver began heckling Fallon, who chairs Oversight’s Economic Growth, Energy Policy and Regulatory Affairs Subcommittee, as Fallon made the case that reducing the number of guns, or tightening gun restrictions, would not result in fewer gun deaths.

“Please remove that woman,” Fallon instructed Capitol Police officers in the room, a request that was echoed by Rep. Andy Biggs, R-Ariz., who chairs Judiciary’s Subcommittee on Crime and Federal Government Surveillance.  

“You’re breaching protocol and disorder in the committee room,” Fallon said, shortly before calling a recess.

“You took my son away from me,” Patricia Oliver responded.

Two Capitol Police officers apprehended Manuel Oliver outside the hearing room following the exchange, videos posted to Twitter show. Several people filmed the scene as police struggled with Oliver, who appeared to be on the ground. 

Washington, D.C.’s, criminal code forbids anyone from continuing to demonstrate in the Capitol complex after being told to stop, according to the Capitol Police.

The mood remained tense after the roughly 10-minute recess, as Fallon and Rep. Maxwell Alejandro Frost, D-Fla., who sits on Oversight, exchanged jabs.

“To be that disruptive, and to be that narcissistic, to breach decorum … shouldn’t be applauded. And it sure as hell shouldn’t be applauded by members of this committee. That’s why I was a little bit shocked that one member did that,” Fallon said after reconvening.

Frost, meanwhile, briefly addressed the remaining gun control advocates in the room before making an early exit.

“I’m so sorry that you had to see what happened outside to Manny and Patricia, who are just fighting for a world where no other parents have to go through what they went through,” Frost said. “And I, for one, believe this has nothing to do with policy and everything to do with politics. And I won’t be listening to another second of it, and I wouldn’t blame you all if you made the same decision.”

Joaquin Oliver was one of 17 people murdered on Feb. 14, 2018, at Marjory Stoneman Douglas in Parkland, Fla., when a former student opened fire with an AR-15-style semi-automatic weapon.

Manuel Oliver could not be reached for comment Thursday via social media. 

In his opening statement, Fallon said the hearing was called to address the Biden administration efforts to “infringe” upon the rights of gun owners and “weaponize” the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, or ATF.

The ATF in January issued a final rule cracking down on stabilizing braces, devices designed to anchor a gun to a shooter’s arm, allowing an individual to shoot the firearm one-handed and improving accuracy. The device was invented by Alex Bosco, one of the witnesses at Thursday’s hearing.

The ATF rule would require gun owners to register with the government their existing pistols equipped with stabilizing braces within 120 days. Owners could also remove the brace, surrender the firearm to the ATF, or destroy the weapon.

“Instead of going after actual criminals, the ATF — by changing the rules without any input from Congress — is trying to turn law-abiding citizens into criminals,” Fallon said. “It’s unacceptable, it’s unfair, and, quite frankly, it’s unconstitutional.”

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