Democrats Stage Sit-In On House Floor Calling For Gun Control Votes

Updated at 2:28 p.m. ET

In an attempt to compel Republican leadership to allow votes on gun control legislation, some Democratic lawmakers on Wednesday morning started a sit-in on the House floor.

Rep. John Lewis (D-GA), an influential member of the civil rights movement, kicked off the protest with a speech, and then Democrats sat down on the House floor.

The member presiding over the House ordered the chamber to go into recess, and then C-SPAN turned off its cameras. But House Democrats continued to post about the sit-in on social media, and reporters at the Capitol said that members continued to speak about gun violence.

C-SPAN noted that it does not have the power to turn on the House cameras during recess.

Although C-SPAN could not broadcast the sit-in, Rep. Scott Peters (D-CA) has been posting live video of the sit-in to the app Periscope.

Around noon on Wednesday, the House went back into session, and members stood for a prayer and the Pledge of Allegiance. When Rep. Ted Poe (R-TX) asked for order and for Democrats to leave the well of the House floor, Democrats refused.

Instead, they chanted, “No bill, no break!” Poe then ordered the House back into recess.

A spokeswoman for House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) explained on Twitter that the House cannot be in session when members are not following the rules.

In his speech just before the sit-in began, Lewis called on the House to address gun violence.

“We have turned deaf ears to the blood of the innocent and the concern of our nation. We are blind to a crisis,” he said. “Where is the heart of this body? Where is our soul? Where is our moral leadership? Where is our courage?”

“We cannot continue to stick our heads in the sand and ignore the reality of mass gun violence in our nation. Deadly mass shootings are becoming more and more frequent,” he continued.

President Obama on Wednesday applauded Lewis and House Democrats for holding the sit-in.

A few hours into the sit-in, House Democrats did not seem ready to give up. Lewis told CNN on Wednesday afternoon that the lawmakers were “going to sit in for a while.”

“We don’t have any intention of leaving any time soon. I will continue to confer with my colleagues. We will continue to plan, but we’re going to sit in for a while,” he said.

When asked about a statement from Ryan’s office about Democrats breaking the rules, Lewis said that breaking the rules is sometimes necessary.

“Sometimes you have to violate a rule or law to uphold a greater law or moral law. We have a right to stand up, to speak up, to speak out, and we have a right to sit down or to sit in, to engage in nonviolent protests. It is always right to do right,” he said.

The congressman referenced his time as a civil rights activist in the interview with CNN.

“You know, many years ago when I was only 20 years old, I participated in sit-ins, and by sitting down we were really standing up,” he said. “Too many of our children, too many of our sisters and brothers, our mothers and fathers, our friends, our cousins are dying by guns, and we have to do something about it. We cannot wait. We cannot afford to take a break and go home. We should stay here until we pass the bills.”

Democrats are pushing for two measures, one that keeps people on the no-fly list from buying firearms and another that expands background checks.

Republican lawmakers began weighing in, defending their opposition to gun control legislation:

A senior House GOP leadership aide called the sit-in a “Democrat publicity stunt.”

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