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Legislators’ Demonstrate to Spur Votes on Gun Control

28 June 2016

 On Wednesday, June 22, 2016, more than 170 House Democrats led by Rep. John Lewis (D-GA), a former leader in the Civil Rights movement, staged a sit-in on the floor of the House of Representatives to try to spur votes on gun control legislation. 

Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) soon declared a recess, which meant that the cameras that stream to C-SPAN were turned off and could not broadcast the demonstration.  This led many of the Democrats to begin filming and streaming video from their phones, in violation House rules. Some of their footage ended up on C-SPAN and other news outlets and the hashtag #NoBillNoBreak was formed. 

Many of the representatives gave speeches inside and outside of the House, including Rep. Al Green (D-TX), who spoke at a press conference, and Rep. John Sarbanes (D-MD), who declared his support for his fellow representatives

When Speaker Ryan attempted to hold procedural votes, the Democrats erupted in loud songs and protests to try to disrupt the behavior on the floor until the votes they requested on gun control were held. This finally came to a head when the House session was adjourned around 3am until after July 4.   

This demonstration mirrored a similar event that happened in the Senate only a week prior, when Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT) held a talking filibuster for nearly 15 hours on the floor of the Senate to spur a vote on pieces of gun control legislation, four of which—S Amdt 4720S Amdt 4749S Amdt 4750 and S Amdt 4751 to HR 2578—failed to pass the following Monday, two days before the House sit-in. Sen. Murphy also made remarks before the votes on these amendments and referred back to his talking filibuster.  

Sen. Murphy’s efforts were praised by Rep. Charlie Rangel (D-NY), in a show of party support across chambers, much like the support Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) would give during the House sit-in. While both of these events had the same aim—raising awareness and having votes held on gun control legislation—they approached their aims differently. Sen. Murphy was able to stay within the rules of the Senate, while the House Democrats disobeyed the rules of the House.   

Speaker Ryan, along with other Republicans including Rep. Bill Johnson (R-OH), labeled the House sit-in as a publicity stunt. Doubtless, this fervor and attention is a lead up to congressional elections in November, where Democrats are hoping to rally their constituents by getting them fired up about gun control.  
Similarly, Sen. Murphy’s talking filibuster garnered publicity and made this issue present in public consciousness, broadening the scope and attention of this issue.  By garnering publicity on this issue, Democrats are hoping to hold votes on pieces of gun control legislation and rally their constituents to the polls this November. 
If you are interested in what your Congressmen have to say about guns, please explore our website, particularly our Public Statements section.

By Malia Hamilton, Key Votes Intern


Related tags: blog, democrats, gun-control. laws, republicans

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