House Democrats Wind Down 'Sit-In' Seeking Vote on Gun Control Bill

A photo tweeted from the floor of the U.S. House by Representative Katherine Clark shows Democratic members staging a sit-in on the chamber floor to demand action on commonsense gun legislation, on June 22. U.S. Rep. Katherine Clark/Handout/Reuters

Updated | House Democrats on Thursday began winding down a "sit-in" on the chamber floor that they launched Wednesday, 10 days after the deadly mass shooting in Orlando, Florida, in an effort to force a vote on a gun control measure.

The Democrats reportedly were on the House floor for some 16 hours, sitting in the aisles and bringing business to a halt. Republicans then retook control of the chamber and soon adjourned the House, saying there would be no more votes until after July 4.

Starting at 11:30 a.m. Eastern time on Wednesday, dozens of legislators, led by Representative John Lewis of Georgia, participated in the sit-in to call for an immediate vote on a "no fly, no buy" measure that would prevent suspected terrorists from purchasing guns. Their demand followed the June 12 Orlando massacre, the worst in the country's history, in which 49 individuals were fatally shot at gay nightclub Pulse. The gunman, Omar Mateen, had previously been on the FBI terrorist watch list, and during the shooting pledged allegiance to the Islamic State militant group.

"Give us a vote! Let us vote! We came here to do our job. We came here to work," Lewis, a civil rights icon, said at a podium on the House floor. "We have been too quiet for too long." The action was broadcast briefly on a C-SPAN live stream from the House.

Earlier on Wednesday, Democrats and at least one Republican, Representative David Jolly of Florida, took turns speaking at the podium, many of them referencing victims of gun violence. Democratic Representative Rosa DeLauro of Connecticut, who was at the sit-in with a broken knee, read the names of the 26 individuals killed in December 2012 at Sandy Hook Elementary School, which is in her home state. Then, when the House went into session around noon, the group of Democrats refused to leave. They allowed for the morning prayer and Pledge of Allegiance, but when GOP Representative Ted Poe, the lawmaker presiding over the chamber, asked them to exit so the proceeding on the 2017 financial services bill could continue, the Democrats continued with their possession of the floor and shouted, "No bill, no break!" The break they referenced was the upcoming recess Friday, for the July 4 holiday.

"This is the fight; it is not an opinion," Lewis said. "We must remove the blinders. The time for silence and patience is long gone. We're calling on the leadership of the House to bring commonsense gun control legislation to the House floor."

Shortly after noon, Poe suddenly declared the House in recess and shut off the cameras and microphones. Legislators then used their cellphones to post photos and video footage from inside the House chamber to their Twitter accounts.

The Democrats who sat down on the floor in front of the podium in the chambers included three lawmakers who have been outspoken on curbing gun violence: Representatives Elizabeth Esty of Connecticut, Joseph Crowley of New York and John Yarmuth of Kentucky.

President Barack Obama tweeted his support for Lewis on Wednesday afternoon for "leading on gun violence where we need it most."

"A moment of silence? We want a moment of truth and a time of action to follow it," Democratic House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said at a press conference outside of the building on Wednesday.

The House Democrats' action came a week after Democratic Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut launched a filibuster in his chamber, and two days after the Senate rejected four gun measures.

Murphy, along with Senator Richard Blumenthal, also from Connecticut, were among the dozens of Democrats who joined their peers on the House floor on Wednesday. Blumenthal had remained in the chamber for the duration of Murphy's filibuster, lasting 14 hours and 50 minutes.

Later on Wednesday, Republicans in the House moved to end the sit-in by scheduling a vote on Zika funding, according to Reuters.

"We're going to continue to operate," Republican Representative John Fleming said. "They can do as they please."

This artice has been updated to reflect new developments on the House floor.

House Democrats Wind Down 'Sit-In' Seeking Vote on Gun Control Bill | U.S.