I mentioned in yesterday afternoon’s post that there had already been 510 gun deaths in the first 37 days of 2019. Last year saw an increase in gun deaths to the highest level in more than 20 years, with almost 40,000 people killed in shootings. This represents a total of 12 deaths per 100,000 people – up from 10.1 in 2010 and the highest rate since 1996.
Given the above figures, it only makes sense that our government would be looking into the situation and determining ways to reduce the number of deaths by firearms, right? Right. And they are. Yesterday, the House Judiciary Committee held its first hearing on gun violence in eight years, since the republicans took a majority in 2011. Republicans, you see, do not like to talk about gun control.
The hearing room was packed with advocates who had lost family members, friends or classmates, or had survived gun violence themselves. And, of course there were the members of the Judiciary Committee – both democrats and republicans. It didn’t get off to a good start, for when Representative Jerry Nadler, the House Judiciary’s chairman, attempted to swear in the panel’s speakers, Republican Mike Johnson of Louisiana objected that Nadler had omitted the words “so help me God,” and asked him to repeat the oath. Seriously??? Apparently so, for the speakers were forced to stand again and take the oath again, with the inclusion of “so help me God”. Nadler had a bit of a smirk on his face, and who can blame him?
But wait … for it gets even better.
The discussion was about guns, the consistently high rate of gun deaths, and what sort of legislation might make our streets, our schools, shopping centers, public venues a bit safer. Out of the blue, Florida Republican Representative Matt Gaetz seemed to lose sight of the topic and uttered …
“If we really cared about safer streets, we would build a wall and secure the border. 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. [Firearms background check legislation] 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.”
Say WHAT??? Who invited this lunatic to the party, anyway? Obviously, he is incapable of focusing on the topic at hand. And he lies, for there are few who have “been the victims of violence at the hands of illegal aliens”, as compared to those who have been victims of violence, particularly gun violence, at the hands of American citizens.
Now, it so happened that among the people in the hearing room were two men, Manuel Oliver and Fred Guttenberg, both fathers of Parkland shooting victims. As you might imagine, they were offput by Gaetz disjointed, out-of-context outburst, and uttered a few words of protest. Gaetz requested that the two men be thrown out of the hearing for “taking up [his] time”. The rules of the hearing are that the public is not supposed to comment, but Nadler simply warned Mr. Oliver and Mr. Guttenberg, and they acquiesced. But, Gaetz was not satisfied, saying …
“I’d observe three interruptions of my time by the same individual, and the chair is not exercising his discretion to remove that individual.”
What, exactly, did the two men say to Gaetz? According to Mr. Guttenberg, “Manny told Gaetz his comments were not true, and I said our loved ones were killed by an American male.” True statements of fact, but they didn’t seem to fit into Mr. Gaetz’ agenda, and anyway, facts have little relevance to many in the Republican Party, it seems. Mr. Guttenberg also made note that a number of the republican committee members left after about the first fifteen minutes, including Steve Chabot (Ohio), Jim Jordan (Ohio), Andy Biggs (Arizona), and Tom McClintock (California). Time to start the letter-writing if any of these jerks are in your state … let them know we expect them to take gun control seriously!
Even neoconservative political analyst Bill Kristol was disgusted by Gaetz’ behaviour, tweeting …
“The Founders were well aware the people would sometimes make unfortunate choices for their representatives. But even the Founders with the lowest expectations for popular government would have been astonished at the spectacle of @mattgaetz as a member of Congress.”
Mr. Gaetz, it would seem, has a few skeletons in his own closet. First, here is his mug shot from a 2008 DUI arrest. Even though he refused the breathalyzer test, he did not have his license suspended for a year as Florida law mandates. Between 1999 and 2014, he received no less than 16 speeding tickets. I hope his colleagues in the House never take him up on the offer of a ride to lunch! Oh, and Mr. Gaetz keeps some really respectable company, too! Take a look …
It’s gonna be a fun two years, folks. Better buckle those seat belts for part two of the Voyage of the Trumptanic.