In the wake of the Orlando nightclub shooting and subsequent failed gun legislation in the U.S. Senate earlier this week, Democratic lawmakers, including Alabama’s 7th District U.S. Rep. Terri Sewell, brought the business of the U.S. House of Representatives to a screeching halt Wednesday, staging a sit-in to demand a vote on gun control legislation.
Shortly after the House gaveled in for a day of regular business, civil rights icon and Georgia-Democrat John Lewis entered the chamber, stood at a podium and called on his colleagues to join him for an old-fashioned sit-in reminiscent of the 1960s civil rights movement. Lewis pledged along with more than 40 of his fellow lawmakers to remain on the House floor until legislation is brought forward to halt the killings brought forth by firearms.
“We have been too quiet for too long,” Lewis said on the House floor. “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.”
In a letter to Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan announcing the protest, Lewis said, “Over the last 12 years, gun-related crimes claimed more American lives than AIDS, war and illegal drug overdoses combined. We urge you to lead the House into action and work with both sides of the aisle to pass common-sense solutions to keep American children and families safe.”
Thirty minutes after the sit-in began House Republicans, who control the floor proceedings, quickly declared the sit-in out of order and immediately called a recess at noon. This automatically turned off the cameras that usually provide live coverage to the public via C-SPAN, leaving lawmakers to take broadcasting the event into their own hands, as they quickly took to social media using the hashtag #NoBillNoBreak to draw national attention to their efforts.
Alabama’s Rep. Sewell is one of the many lawmakers tweeting the event from the House floor. Sewell said she joined her colleagues to pay tribute to the victims of the Orlando nightclub shooting and all those who have lost their lives or loved ones to senseless gun violence.
— Rep. Terri A. Sewell (@RepTerriSewell) June 22, 2016
“Congress has repeatedly failed to pass gun safety measures that would protect our communities while preserving the rights of responsible gun owners,” said Sewell in a news release. “While I am a staunch supporter of the Second Amendment, I believe that strengthening background checks, eliminating gun show loopholes, and preventing potential terrorists from acquiring assault weapons will not limit the rights of lawful gun owners to protect and defend themselves.”
Sewell continued, “Make no mistake; this is not an attempt to take guns away from law-abiding citizens — these are common-sense gun safety measures. We must set aside party politics and work together in the best interests of our nation to reduce gun violence and senseless killings.”
“The rising tide of gun violence continues to claim far too many lives. It’s time for Congress to act. I urge my colleagues to take up gun safety measures that will protect our families and our communities. We cannot continue to mourn these tragedies without doing all we can to prevent them.”
Now in it’s sixth hour, the sit-in continues.