A Sit-In on the House Floor Over Gun Control – The Atlantic

Politico reports that Speaker Ryan’s office does not seem amenable to Democrats’ move. “The House cannot operate without members following the rules of the institution, so the House has recessed subject to the call of the chair,” Ryan’s spokeswoman, AshLee Strong, said in a statement to The Atlantic.

C-SPAN wants its viewers to know that it does not control the TV cameras in the House chamber and cannot broadcast when the House is not in session. This is reminiscent of when Republicans staged a protest against the Democratic majority during the summer recess in 2008, speaking in a darkened chamber to demand action on energy legislation.

“What is the tipping point? Are we blind? Can we see? How many more mothers and fathers must shed tears of grief before we do something?” That’s how Representative John Lewis exhorted Congress to vote for “common sense” gun measures. His speech evokes Lewis’s own history of nonviolent protest, and is a powerful reminder of what his work has accomplished. His colleague John Larson called him the “soul of America” in accompanying remarks.

John Lewis has championed nonviolent protest his entire career. As a young man, he was the chairman of the civil-rights-era Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, which his congressional biography notes was “largely responsible for organizing student activism … including sit-ins and other activities.” He spoke at Martin Luther King Jr.’s 1963 March on Washington, and led the Selma March two years later. On Wednesday, he said the “time for silence and patience is long gone.”

House Democrats, led by civil-rights pioneer and Georgia Representative John Lewis, are staging a sit-in on the House floor to protest what they see as congressional inaction on gun control.

“We have to occupy the floor of the House until there is action,” Connecticut Democrat John Larson said, as his fellow members began to sit down late Wednesday morning. “Rise up Democrats, rise up Americans, this cannot stand.”

More than two dozen Democrats appear to be participating in the sit-in, though CSPAN’s cameras, which are controlled by the Republican majority, are switched off. Members have instead taken to Twitter to spread awareness of their action, tweeting statements and pictures from the floor.

The move parallels Senate Democrats’ gun-control filibuster last week. Both were inspired by the recent attack in Orlando, in which a gunman shot and killed 49 people at a gay nightclub. The 15-hour Senate filibuster led to votes Monday on four gun-control-related measures, but all failed. On Tuesday, Maine Republican Senator Susan Collins unveiled a bipartisan compromise amendment that would seek to prevent terrorists from obtaining guns. A vote on that measure is expected soon.

Connecticut Democratic Senator Chris Murphy is reportedly headed to the House floor to join his House counterparts.  

In an introductory speech, Lewis asked all his colleagues to come to the front of the House chamber. “We have lost hundreds and thousands of innocent people to gun violence,” Lewis said. “Tiny little children, babies, students, and teachers, mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers, daughters and sons, friends and neighbors. And what has this body done? Mr. Speaker, not one thing.”

Before Lewis spoke, Maryland Representative Donna Edwards went after the gun lobby in a short speech. “It is past time for Congress to listen to the American public instead of the National Rifle Association,” Edwards said, calling for stricter background checks and for Congress to pass a bill to restrict suspected terrorists from buying guns. Edwards emphasized that she is not just concerned about mass shootings, but about gun violence at large. She said a minority of pro-gun voices “are forcing a false choice between constitutional rights and safe streets.”

—Nora Kelly


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