WASHINGTON — Georgia Rep. John Lewis is leading a sit-in on the House floor Wednesday to push Republicans to address gun violence in the legislative chamber.
“Sometimes you have to do something out of the ordinary. Sometimes you have to make a way out of no way. We have been too quiet for too long,” the Democratic civil rights leader said. “There comes a time when you have to say something, when you have to make a little noise, when you have to move your feet. This is the time. Now is the time to get in the way. The time to act is now. We will be silent no more.”
Lewis wrote a letter to House Speaker Paul Ryan demanding that he keep the House in session through its planned recess to debate and vote on gun control legislation. The move was the latest in a long string of failed attempts at enacting tighter curbs on firearms in the United States.
“As the worst mass shooting in our nation’s history has underscored, our country cannot afford to stand by while this Congress continues to be paralyzed by politics,” the Georgia Democrat and civil rights icon wrote. “We urge you to lead the House into action and work with both sides of the aisle to pass commonsense solutions to keep American children and families safe.”
Just after noon. the House was gaveled back into session for the regular noontime prayer and Democrats remained in the chamber to protest the lack of a vote.
“Give us a vote. Let us vote. We came here to do our job. We came here to work. The American people demand action,” Lewis said.
Connecticut Sen. Chris Murphy walked over and joined the sit-in. The lawmaker led a nearly 15-hour filibuster in the Senate last week asking lawmakers to vote on gun reform.
While the House was recessed, dozens of House Democrats joined the sit-in in the well of the House reading names of gun victims to visitors in the House galleries.
Ohio Rep. Joyce Beatty, who exited the chamber briefly, said Democrats planned to stay “as long as we need to — all day, all night.”
South Carolina Rep. Jim Clyburn, a veteran of the civil rights movement like Lewis, said he didn’t know how long Democrats planned to keep the sit-in going.
Other lawmakers joining Lewis include Florida Rep. Frederica Wilson, Michigan Rep. Dan Kildee, Louisiana Rep. Cedric Richmond, Connecticut Rep. Jim Himes and Conneticut Rep. John Larson.
Senators failed to gather enough bipartisan support to pass a series of gun control measures Monday. After the worst mass shooting in U.S. history, senators from each party introduced the measures they said would have strengthened background checks and prevented suspected terrorists from obtaining weapons, but failed to cross the 60-vote threshold needed to advance.
Lawmakers and their aides tweeted from the House floor.