On June 22, 2016, the citizenry witnessed democracy in action.
Enraged by the Speaker of the House, Rep. Paul Ryan, refused to allow a debate and vote on gun control proposals that are sponsored by Rep. Peter T. King, Rep. John Lewis led Democrats to a sit-in. Needless to say, Rep. Paul Ryan wasn’t pleased, accusing Democrats of staging a stunt.
Rep. John Lewis has a long history of participating in sit-ins. In his younger years, Lewis was a member of the Big Six as a civil rights leader, working alongside Martin Luther King Jr. Thus, inciting a sit-in in the House was a no-brainer, considering, the built up frustration Democrats and gun control advocates had manifested towards the Republican-led House. Under the leadership of Rep. Paul Ryan, any mention of gun control was immediately denied entry for debate on the House floor.
This denial of discussing Rep. Peter Kings proposals which concerned mandatory background checks on all gun purchases and banning people on the no-fly list from purchasing guns was a stark turnaround from Pual Ryan’s initial stance on gun control measures. After the tragic Orlando shooting at Pulse Gay Nightclub, Paul Ryan told Fox News he would work with the NRA to create measures that would prevent another mass shooting from occurring, including, banning suspected terrorists on the terrorist watch list and from the no-fly list from purchasing guns.
“I will be meeting with the N.R.A., who has endorsed me, about not allowing people on the terrorist watch list, or the no-fly list, to buy guns,” the presumptive GOP presidential nominee tweeted Wednesday.”
Finally, it seemed Republicans and Democrats could make headway on dealing with measures to reduce gun violence in this country. However, the NRA isn’t in the business of gun control measures. Recently, the Senate failed to pass four gun control actions, and Rep. Paul Ryan backtracked from his earlier statement to appease the NRA, allegedly. The NRA and Republicans for some time have been lock and step in taking a bold stand on preserving citizens second amendment rights with no exceptions.
Well, this was the last straw for Rep. John Lewis and Democrats. This time, they were settled on making their discontent and voices heard — even if they were in the minority. Democrats, in particular, were incensed that the House wanted a recess in light of the recent mass shooting. The Democratic argument was the country was still emotionally depleted and angry after the Orlando shooting and wanted action on reducing mass shootings. Thus, a necessary and urgent conversation about gun control were imperative, and not tomorrow, but today.
“My colleagues and I have had enough. We are sitting-in on the House Floor until we get a vote to address gun violence.”
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
Mother Jones is keeping track of mass shootings, and they report there’s been 26 since 2012. FastStats reports that since 2013, the number of homicide deaths by firearm was 11,208 for every 100,000 in the population. These are startling numbers. With these number in perspective, it’s no surprise 90 percent of the American population supports some form of gun control. Republicans, however, are not moved by this fact, upending the subject of due process and no infringement on constitutional rights as the reason for dissent.
Due to House Rules — when not in session all cameras and mics are turned off. Thus, Democrats sit-in display was unavailable to vie on CSPAN. Of course, Rep. Paul Ryan was blamed for the blackout — was accused of political partisanship — although there was nothing Pual Ryan could do in this situation. The outage, however, didn’t last long.
Thankfully, though, social media stepped in, as well as, rebellion. Rules forbid cell phones on the House Floor. However, Democrats and regulations were beside the point, because democracy was in peril to them. Thus, a live feed immediately appeared on Periscope. The sit-in quickly disbursed on other social media outlets like Twitter and Facebook.
Almost immediately, support from liberals and gun rights advocates flooded on social media platforms, especially on Twitter with the hashtag #NoBillNoBreak, which began to trend quickly.
If someone is on the no fly list by mistake that can be fixed. If someone is murdered w/ a gun that cannot be undone. #NoBillNoBreak— Brasilmagic (@Brasilmagic) June 23, 2016
Eight hours into the sit-in, Rep. Paul Ryan attempted to interrupt the sit-in, insisting other proposals — motions in no relation to gun control measures — were to be voted on. Democrats, of course, weren’t having it, shouting, “No Bill, No Break,” and “Shame, Shame, Shame.”
No doubt about it, this day will go down in history, as the day Democrats stopped being lapdogs for House Republicans and stood up for their liberal values and the American citizenry.
Update 6.23.2016 at 3:29 a.m.: The initial article stated Rep. Paul Ryan authorized turning off the House cameras and mics to prevent the broadcast of the sit-in on CSPAN. However, House rules stipulate when the House is not in session, rules mandate all cameras and mics be turned off. Apologies for the misinformation and know the misinformation wasn’t purposely intended.
[Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images]