Led by civil rights pioneer Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.), House Democrats called on U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) to hold a vote on legislation that would expand background checks and prohibit suspected terrorists on the “no fly” list from purchasing a firearm.
“We cannot continue to stick our heads in the sand and ignore the reality of mass gun violence in our nation,” Lewis said on the House floor. “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.”
Lewis announced the sit-in shortly before noon and pledged to continue the House held a vote on gun safety legislation. Gay Reps. David Cicilline (D-R.I.) and Mark Takano (D-Calif.) were among the House Democrats seen on the House floor participating in action. As of the time of this posting, the sit-in continued.
During a news conference on the steps of U.S. Capitol, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said the gun safety measures on which Democrats are seeking a vote have overwhelming support among Americans.
“Since Orlando, probably, nearly a couple hundred people – over 150 people have died from gun violence in the streets of our country,” Pelosi said. “We want to address that issue as well as to deeply pray for those who lost their lives and their family members in Orlando and all of the mass shootings before that, but also remembering those who lose their lives to gun violence every single day.”
As the sit-in continued, Ryan cut coverage on the House floor on CSPAN on the basis that House Democrats were violating the rules of the chamber, so House Democrats resorted to Facebook and Periscope to broadcast their sit-in.
“The House cannot operate without members following the rules of the institution, so the House has recessed subject to the call of the chair,” said Ryan spokesperson AshLee Strong.
Among those seen joining House Democrats on the floor in solidarity were Sens. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Barbra Mikulski (D-Md.) and Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders.