Led by civil rights icon Rep. John Lewis (D-GA), Democratic members of Congress literally sat on the House floor on Wednesday to demand action on gun control. Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) responded by ordering the cameras off and abruptly ending the session.
“We have lost hundreds of thousands of innocent people to gun violence,” Lewis said on the House floor during Wednesday’s morning session. Dozens of Democratic members of Congress stood beside him, before they all took a seat on the floor.
“Tiny little children. Babies, students, and teachers. Mothers and fathers. Sisters and brothers. Daughters and sons. Friends and neighbors,” Lewis said. “And what has this body done?”
My colleagues & I have had enough. We are sitting-in on the House Floor until we get a vote to address gun violence. https://t.co/rTqrPifuUz
— John Lewis (@repjohnlewis) June 22, 2016
— Rep. John Yarmuth (@RepJohnYarmuth) June 22, 2016
On Monday, after Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT) led a 15-hour filibuster, the Senate rejected four gun control measures that would have expanded background checks to all gun sales and made it more difficult for people on the terror watch list to purchase firearms. The Republican-led House is also unlikely to pass gun reform after the Orlando shooting — a fact that Lewis noted on Wednesday.
“We have turned deaf ears to the blood of the innocent and the concern of our nation,” Lewis said. “We are blind to a crisis. Mr. Speaker, where is the heart of this body? Where is our soul?”
“Give us a vote!” he demanded, echoing rhetoric he used to demand the passage of the Voting Rights Act decades ago. “Let us have a vote.”
Ryan, the leader of the Republican majority in the House, responded by ordering the House break for lunch, shutting off the cameras and effectively making the session closed to the press.
The session is scheduled to continue at noon, but Ryan has the power to “suspend the business of the House for a short time.”
This post will be updated as the sit-in continues.