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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, June 24, 2016 - Volume 44 Issue 26
John Lewis leads House sit-in to force vote on gun bills
Section One
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John Lewis leads House sit-in to force vote on gun bills

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

Civil rights icon John Lewis led a sit-in in the US House of Representatives on June 22 in hopes of forcing Republican leaders to bring gun control measures to the floor for a vote.

Some 40 Democratic congressmembers followed Lewis, including Seattle Reps. Jim McDermott and Adam Smith.

According to Raw Story, Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) left a meeting to join the sit-in after his mother called his office and told his staff that she wanted him there.

The Democrats stood briefly during the Pledge of Allegiance and then returned to sitting on the floor, chanting 'No bill, no break!' The House had been scheduled to wrap up business by June 23 and then go on break through the Fourth of July holiday.

'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,' Lewis 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.'

The action temporarily prevented the House from being gaveled into session, but as SGN goes to press the House has recessed for its break, and there is no sign that Speaker Paul Ryan will yield and bring gun control measures to the floor.

'Today, I was proud to join Congressman John Lewis and Congresswoman Katherine Clark as they led House Democrats in a sit-in to call for action on common-sense gun reforms,' Smith said in a June 22 statement.

'My fellow Democrats and I took to the floor to demand that gun safety legislation finally be allowed a vote by the full House of Representatives. The time is long past due for action. It is shameful that Republican leadership has failed to listen to the American people. Speaker Ryan must change course - let us vote now to keep weapons out of the hands of dangerous terrorists and enact reforms that will reduce gun violence and keep our communities safe.'

The House action follows Senate votes on four gun control bills, two offered by Democrats and two by Republicans. Those votes were forced by a 15-hour Democratic filibuster led by Sen. Chris Murphy of Connecticut.

According to MSNBC, Murphy walked to the House chamber to show support for the Democratic sit-in.

'You cannot stand down at a moment of peril for this country,' he said.

Murphy was joined by 14 other Democratic senators, including Washington's Sen. Patty Murray and presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders.

In largely party-line votes on June 20, the Senate rejected Murphy's proposal to close the so-called 'gun show loophole' by 44 votes to 56, and also voted down a proposal by Sen. Diane Feinstein (D-Calif.) to bar suspected terrorist from buying guns, 47-53.

A measure submitted by Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) and supported by the National Rifle Association was also rejected, as was one from Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) to set aside more money for federal background checks.

On June 13, the US Supreme Court declined to hear a challenge to Connecticut's ban on semiautomatic rifles. The law was passed in 2013 in the wake of the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

While the high court's decision not to hear the appeal leaves the Connecticut law in place, it does not establish a national precedent on the constitutionality of similar legislation.

In March, however, the Supreme Court ruled unanimously that stun guns are protected under the Second Amendment, striking down a Massachusetts law that prohibited them.

In 2008 and again in 2010, the Supreme Court struck down laws intended to restrict private ownership of handguns.

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