Democrats Stage House Floor Sit-In Over Gun Control

Some two dozen House Democrats held a sit-in on the House floor on Wednesday in order push for a vote on gun-control legislation. Four measures were earlier shot down by the Senate. Photo courtesy Rep. Donna Edwards/Twitter

WASHINGTON, June 22 (UPI) — Days after four gun-control measures were shot down in the Senate, Democrats staged a sit-in on the House floor to push for a vote on legislation they say could prevent another massacre like one in Orlando, Fla., last week.

Led by civil rights veteran Georgia Rep. John Lewis, more than two dozen Democrats began the protest shortly before noon.

“Now is the time for us to find a way to dramatize it, to make it real,” Lewis said. “We have to occupy the floor of the House until there is action.

“We have turned deaf ears to the blood of the innocent and the deaths in our nation. Mr. Speaker, where is the heart of this body. Where is our soul?

“How many more mothers, how many more fathers have to share tears of grief before we decide to do anything?”

Some Democrats sat cross-legged on the chamber floor, taking selfies and tweeting about their sit-in, which was not televised because the House wasn’t formally in session.

The protest comes after Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, unveiled compromise legislation Tuesday in a bid to get some form of gun-control legislation through the Senate.

Collins’ amendment would prohibit gun sales to people on two FBI terrorist watch lists: the “No Fly List,” which prohibits suspected terrorists from boarding planes heading to or from the United States or crossing U.S. airspace, and the “Selectee List,” which requires extra screening procedures.

There are approximately 109,000 people on those lists. The vast majority are foreigners, but the list is said to include around 2,700 Americans, according to Collins.

Democrats, led by Rep. John Lewis (C) stage a House sit-in in a bid to force action on gun control. Photo courtesy of Rep. John Yarmuth/Twitter
Democrats, led by Rep. John Lewis (C) stage a House sit-in in a bid to force action on gun control. Photo courtesy of Rep. John Yarmuth/Twitter

Democrats have been pressing for action on gun control before the House leaves at the end of this week for a planned recess.

Four gun policy measures failed on Monday to move forward in the Senate.

The chamber voted down an amendment by Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, to add funding to enhance existing background checks for gun purchasers. It came within seven votes of passing, 53-47.

Another Republican amendment from Texas Sen. John Cornyn, to require law enforcement to be alerted whenever a person who’s been on the federal terror watch list in the past five years attempts to buy a weapon, also fell seven votes shy, 53-47. Under his proposal, Justice Department officials could block the sale for up to 72 hours while a court reviews the sale.

Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., introduced a proposal to expand background checks and close a “gun show loophole” that lets people buy guns at trade shows without appearing on any federal registry. His didn’t manage a simple majority with a vote of 44-56.

A second Democratic proposal from California Sen. Dianne Feinstein, suggesting an amendment to allow the U.S. Justice Department deny a gun sale to anyone if there’s a “reasonable belief” the buyer might engage in terrorism, fell 13 votes short at 47-53.

The votes came in the wake of a deadly shooting spree in a gay nightclub in Orlando, and a subsequent 15-hour filibuster by Senate Democrats who demanded action on gun control.

U.S. President Barack Obama has made repeated calls for gun law reform during his time in the White House.

During his regular weekly address, following the mass shooting in Orlando, Obama called for restrictions on assault weapons noting that preventing such acts of terrorism “requires more than talk.”

“Being tough on terrorism, particularly the sorts of homegrown terrorism that we’ve seen now in Orlando and San Bernardino, [Calif.], means making it harder for people who want to kill Americans to get their hands on assault weapons that are capable of killing dozens of innocents as quickly as possible,” he said.

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