Democrats promise to keep up pressure on gun control after sit-in | News | DW | 23.06.2016
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Democrats promise to keep up pressure on gun control after sit-in

Although Republicans refused to agree to a vote on tighter gun laws, Democrats have vowed to continue their campaign. DW spoke with one of the protesting lawmakers about the situation on the Congress floor.

Republican majority leaders adjourned the US House of Representatives early Thursday, putting a damper on hopes an all-night sit-in would force a vote on gun legislation.

Led by Representatives John Lewis and Katherine Clark, House Democrats had taken charge of the floor on Wednesday afternoon and held it through the night in protest of inaction on firearm violence in the wake of the worst gun massacre in US history.

Despite Speaker Paul Ryan officially adjourning the House until the end of its Independence Day recess, a few representatives remained in an effort to drive their point home.

Although the Republicans refused to vote on any new gun laws, calling the unprecedented event a "publicity stunt," Democrats did not see the end of their sit-in as a defeat.

"None of us were expecting them to immediately cave to our demands," Congressman Jim Himes told DW. "The point was to galvanize public interest."

US Politiker Jim Himes

It is not enough to just "participate in moments of silence," said Himes

Filibuster and sit-in just the beginning

Beginning with Senator Chris Murphy's 15-hour filibuster for gun control last week, congressional Democrats are just beginning their "steady application of pressure," as Himes put it, so that the all too familiar routine of massacre-outcry-inaction does not continue after a gunman killed 49 people in a gay nightclub in Orlando.

"We have an intensity problem," Himes explained. "We have to match the intensity of the people who support… the violent deaths of Americans."

According to Himes, the sit-in began as a small group of House Democrats launching a protest in an attempt to force a vote on expanded background checks for gun purchases, but they were soon joined by the "vast majority" of party members.

Tweeting pictures of pizza, doughnuts and pillows, the members of Congress refused to be moved when Speaker Ryan first tried to gavel the session to a close.

"No bill, no break!" they chanted, later joining together to sing the civil rights anthem "We shall overcome," but changing the lyrics to "We shall pass a bill." After the Republicans turned off the cameras on the House floor, the protestors continued broadcasting their demonstration via apps like Periscope and Facebook Live.

Stricter gun laws repeatedly rejected

As the US experiences an uptick in brutal and deadly gun violence, repeated attempts, usually led by Democrats, to introduce gun legislation have failed to pass both houses of Congress. Last week's filibuster forced Senate Republicans to agree to debate banning individuals on the FBI terror watch list from buying guns, but that too fell flat.

The event prompted a huge response on Twitter, from well-known personalities and the general public alike:

"This is not a battle that can be won in a week or a month," Himes admitted, but said that with a special view to the Sandy Hook massacre of 26 students and teachers, which took place near his Connecticut district, it was "morally reprehensible" to sit by without consistently pushing for stricter gun control.

The act of civil disobedience garnered praise from President Barack Obama, who tweeted: "Thank you John Lewis for leading on gun violence where we need it most."

Himes said that the issue was far from put to bed, and Democrats were planning to continue their fight for tighter gun control when the House returns from its recess on July 5.

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