Around 30 Democratic lawmakers are holding a sit-in protest on the floor of the GOP-led US House of Representatives on Wednesday to demand a vote on gun-control legislation, an action taken just days after the June 12 massacre at an LGBT nightclub in Orlando, Florida.
The legislators began sitting down in the well of the House chamber starting at 11:30 a.m. over the Republican leadership’s refusal to allow a vote on a gun-control measure in the wake of the deaths of 49 people, the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history.
Rep. John Lewis, the civil rights icon who led the sit-in protest, said in a speech kicking it off that “we have lost hundreds of thousands of innocent people to gun violence … And what has this body done? Mr. Speaker (Paul Ryan), nothing. Not one thing.”
“We have turned deaf ears to the blood of the innocent and the concern of our nation,” he added.
The Democratic lawmakers refused to leave the well and responded to calls to order by chanting “No bill. No break,” a call for Ryan to keep the House in session through a planned weeklong recess next week.
The Democrats’ presumptive presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton, praised the action on Twitter, saying of the sit-in “this is what real leadership looks like.”
But the powerful National Rifle Association, whose support is critical for many Republicans, has opposed any changes to US gun laws, saying Americans have the broad right to bear arms under the the U.S. Constitution’s second amendment.
The Republican-led US Senate on Monday rejected four bills to restrict gun sales following a filibuster last week by Senate Democrats, but the GOP leadership in the House has thus far not allowed gun-control legislation to advance.
Senate leaders have pledged to schedule a vote on a bipartisan compromise bill that would prevent individuals on two federal terrorist watch lists from purchasing firearms.