Hours after hitting the 24 hour mark, Democratic members of the House have ended their sit-in on the House floor. Members were calling on GOP leadership to hold a vote on gun control measures Democrats have repeatedly pushed for — first in the form of a series of amendments, then again as the “no fly, no buy” bill. (You can watch live here).
In all forms, the legislation would keep known or suspected terrorists from purchasing guns — if there’s a reasonable belief that the weapons would be used commit acts of terror. If a person had been investigated as a potential terrorist over a certain time period, or was on a terror-related watch list (like the no-fly list), they couldn’t buy a gun and their attempted purchase would be reported to the DOJ.
When it began yesterday, over 40 house members in the sit-in brought legislative activity to a halt, chanting, “No bill, no break!” Reps made speeches on gun control, the Charleston church shooting, and the massacre in Orlando. Over the course of the hour, attendance tripled — even as Republicans continued their recess from the House.
While sit-in participants hoped to aggressively persuade leadership to allow a vote before the Independence Day recess next week, House Republicans had already left. Speaker Paul Ryan showed little interest in bending to the will of the protesters, faulting Democrats for trying to call votes on “a bill that already died” in the Senate. Speaker Ryan also derided the sit-in as a “publicity stunt.”
Even though the sit-in is over, Democrats have refused to budge, with some members promising to continue the sit-in when the House returns. Either way, the sit-in accomplished something: the House has cancelled the rest of its votes this week and adjourned until after 4th of July. Calling GOP leader’s actions an act of “political cowardice,” Democratic protesters question why their Republican colleagues are so hesitant to schedule a vote. In the words of one protesting Rep. John Lewis (D-GA):
“We have been quiet for too long. There comes a time when you have to say something. You have to make a little noise. You have to move your feet. This is the time.”
Several have questioned whether a sit-in is the right way to urge House Republicans to allow a roll-call vote. Others believe the bill isn’t worthy of this kind of protest. And many critical of the sit in pose that it’s not right to interfere with the leadership’s vote decisions. Where do you stand? Speak up to your lawmakers here.