About 40 U.S. House Democrats vowed on Wednesday “to occupy the floor of the House until there is action” on gun control legislation. U.S. Rep. John Lewis (D-Georgia) rallied his colleagues to join him in a demonstration of defiance on the floor.
C-SPAN cameras in the chamber have been turned off because the House is not technically in session, but it is now broadcasting the Periscope feed of U.S. Rep Scott Peters (D-California).
The sit-in was prompted by the House’s failure to move forward on any one of four gun policy bills – two written by Democrats and two less restrictive measures written by Republicans – on Monday in the wake of the mass shooting in Orlando on June 12 that left 49 people dead and more than 50 injured.
“Sometimes you have to do something out of the ordinary. Sometimes you have to make a way out of no way. We have been too quiet for too long,” said Lewis, who led the sit-in on Wednesday and is a civil rights icon. “There comes a time when you have to say something, when you have to make a little noise, when you have to move your feet. This is the time. Now is the time to get in the way. The time to act is now. We will be silent no more.”
— Rep. John Yarmuth (@RepJohnYarmuth) June 22, 2016
Chants of “I’m sick and tired of being sick and tired!” and “No bill, no break!” broke out among the members throughout the day, refusing to leave for vacation before a vote on gun control is held.
“We were elected to lead, Mr. Speaker,” Smith said. “We must be headlights, and not taillights. We cannot continue to stick our heads in the sand and ignore the reality of mass gun violence in our nation. Deadly mass shootings are becoming more and more frequent. Mr. Speaker, this is a fact. It is not an opinion. We must remove the blinders. The time for silence and patience is long gone.
We are calling on the leadership of the House to bring common-sense gun control legislation to the House Floor. Give us a vote. Let us vote. We came here to do our jobs. We came here to work. The American people are demanding action.”
U.S. Rep. Joaquín Castro (D-San Antonio) is one of the democrats participating in the sit-in and tweeted out a video of his speech.
Unless a compromise is reached, it’s largely up to House Speaker Paul Ryan whether he wants to try to clear the floor, sanction members, or both. The only other option is to wait out the Democrats’ demonstration.
Many House Republicans, including U.S. Sen. John Cornyn who proposed a bill that would require a 72-hour wait time for people on federal terrorist watch lists to purchase a gun, said stricter gun control doesn’t get at the root of the Orlando massacre.
“Is this a product of a flawed strategy to deal with ISIS and our inability to catch people that have become radicalized here in the U.S., or is this a matter of inadequate regulation of guns under the Second Amendment for private citizens?” he asked rhetorically during a luncheon last week. “I happen to believe it’s the former, not the latter.”
Top image: U.S. Rep. Joaquín Castro (D-Texas) gives a speech during the House Democrat sit-in. Photo from C-SPAN Facebook page.