President Joe Biden gave a speech today about the gun safety package that just got passed on a federal level. And while there has been some growth in terms of gun safety reform, gun control advocates and victims’ families still feel like there is a long way to go.
Manuel Oliver, the father of Joaquin “Guac” Oliver, a boy who was killed in the Parkland school shooting, made sure that the president knew that. As the president spoke, he motioned for someone to sit down and said, “Sit down. You’ll hear what I have to say.” After some mumbling, the camera cuts to Oliver, who attempted to interrupt the president.
“I have been trying to tell you this for years,” Oliver yelled as people applauded. The president, realizing who he was, then said, “Let him talk. Let him talk,” as security escorted Oliver away.
After the loss of his son, Oliver founded Change the Ref, a group working to “reduce the influence of the NRA and gun manufacturers through strategic interventions and by using art as a form of communication” that uses “urban art and non-violent creative confrontation to advocate for the eradication of the gun violence epidemic and to expose elected officials who are bought and paid for by the NRA and gun manufacturers,” according to its site.
Non-violent creative confrontation seems to be Oliver’s strength. Back in February, the activist and artist climbed a crane near the White House on the 4-year anniversary of the Parkland shooting. Once he was on top of the crane, he unfurled a banner addressing President Biden and saying, “45k people died from gun violence on your watch!” On the 1-year anniversary of the massacre, Oliver sent a powerful public message with his series of sculptures “The Last Lockdown,” which featured statues of children cowering under their desks.
In his speech, the president addressed some of Oliver’s concerns, calling for a ban on assault weapons and universal background checks. “Make no mistake about it: this legislation is progress but more has to be done.”
The ceremony took place a week after the shooting at a Fourth of July parade in Highland Park, Illinois, killing seven people.
The Parkland shooting took place on February 14, 2018, when a gunman killed 17 people and injured 17 more at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. The shooter purchased an AR-15 legally after passing a background check when he was 18.
Joaquin Oliver was just 17 when he was murdered.
Oliver is right. More has to be done. Now.