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Dems stage sit-in on House floor to push for gun control

Posted: 5:23 PM, Jun 22, 2016
Updated: 2016-06-22 18:24:36-04

Rep. Gwen Moore (D - Wis.) is among several lawmakers who participated in a Congressional "sit in" Wednesday. The lawmaker also took a stand on Twitter Wednesday. 

WASHINGTON (AP) — Rebellious Democrats disrupted the House's legislative work on Wednesday, staging a sit-in on the House floor and refusing to leave until they secured a vote on gun control measures. Exasperated Republicans were forced to recess while cutting off cameras that showed the protest.

Nearly 100 Democrats led by Georgia Rep. John Lewis demanded a vote on measures to expand background checks and block gun purchases by some suspected terrorists in the aftermath of last week's massacre in Orlando, Florida, that killed 49 people in a gay nightclub. It was the worst shooting in modern U.S. history.

The House leaves for a recess at the end of this week. The sit-in began shortly before noon EST today. 

"No bill, no break," shouted Democrats, who demanded that Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., keep the House in session through its planned weeklong recess next week to debate and vote on gun legislation.

Democrats accused Republicans of political cowardice by failing to schedule a vote.

"Are they more afraid than the children at Sandy Hook?" asked Rep. Mike Thompson, D-Calif., referring to the 2012 shooting that killed 26 people, including 20 elementary school children, in Newtown, Connecticut. "What is so scary about having a vote?"

Lewis, a veteran civil rights leader revered by Democrats, said action on gun violence is long overdue.

"We have lost hundreds and thousands of innocent people to gun violence," Lewis said as he urged fellow Democrats to stand with him in the area near the podium, known as the well.

yan said Wednesday that House leaders were "waiting to see what the Senate does before proceeding" on gun legislation, including a possible compromise being sought by Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Maine.

Larson and other Democrats cited polls showing broad public support for expanding background checks for firearms purchases and blocking suspected terrorists from buying guns.

"Rise up Democrats, rise up Americans," Larson said. "We will occupy this chamber."

Among those protesting on the House floor was Rep. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., an Iraq war veteran who lost both her legs in combat. She got out of a wheelchair and sat on the House floor with other lawmakers.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said the House needs to act on gun legislation, rather than continually hold moments of silence in memory of victims of gun violence.

"We truly believe that if there were a vote that we would win the vote, because 85 to 90 percent of the American people ... support responsible background checks legislation, which is bipartisan, and the 'no-fly, no-buy' legislation, which is bipartisan," Pelosi said.

White House press secretary Josh Earnest said House Democrats were "showing the kind of frustration and even anger that people around the country have about the inability of the Republican-led Congress to take common-sense steps that would protect the American people."

C-SPAN, a cable network that provides continual coverage of House and Senate floor proceedings, does not control the cameras. They're run on authorization by legislative leaders.

"They can turn off all the TV they want, but they can't stop us from doing what we know is the right thing here in this well," Larson said of GOP leaders.

"I am willing to stay here until hell freezes over," added Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif.

As the protest continued, lawmakers briefly sang "We Shall Not Be Moved."

"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 said Wednesday that House leaders were "waiting to see what the Senate does before proceeding" on gun legislation, including a possible compromise being sought by Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Maine.

Larson and other Democrats cited polls showing broad public support for expanding background checks for firearms purchases and blocking suspected terrorists from buying guns.

"Rise up Democrats, rise up Americans," Larson said. "We will occupy this chamber."

Rep. Steny Hoyer of Maryland, the No. 2 House Democrat, said, "We will not be shut up. We will not be shut down."

The House was not in session when the Democrats began their demonstration. Republican leaders again ordered C-SPAN cameras turned off as the protest resumed Wednesday afternoon.

"They can turn off all the TV they want, but they can't stop us from doing what we know is the right thing here in this well," Larson said.

"I am willing to stay here until hell freezes over," added Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif.

As the protest continued, lawmakers briefly sang "We Shall Not Be Moved."

Despite the lack of cameras, California representative Scott Peters has been posting live videos of the sit-in via Periscope.