WASHINGTON — Democratic members of the House held a sit-in on the House floor from June 22 to 23 to force the Republican leadership to allow a vote on “no fly, no buy” legislation that would ban people on the no-fly list from buying guns.
The Democrats also supported a bill to expand and strengthen the background check system. Their slogan was “No bill, no break,” referring to the congressional recess.
House Speaker Paul Ryan was unmoved and took no action on the legislation before adjourning the House for a month.
During the protest — initiated by Rep. John Lewis of Georgia, a veteran of the civil rights movement — the Republicans cut off the microphone and had C-SPAN stop its live coverage of the chamber, but several House members used their smartphones to live-stream the speeches to a nationwide audience.
Senate Democrats, including Mazie Hirono of Hawaii, supported the protest by bringing snacks to their House colleagues during the 26-hour sit-in.
Following are comments from members of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus who participated.
Rep. Judy Chu of Pasadena, CAPAC chair: “I’m joining John Lewis and House Democrats for an historic sit-in on the House floor to speak for the many victims of gun violence who cannot. I refuse to accept that we should expect more mass shootings. The GOP may have tried to silence us by shutting the cameras off, but we are here and will continue to be until there is a vote on guns.”
Rep. Mike Honda of San Jose, CAPAC chair emeritus: “It has become all too common for us to mourn the tragic deaths of so many innocent victims. We can’t just sit on our hands once again and fail to act. We have had enough. Enough is enough. We’re going to do something about it and have our voices heard on the issue of gun violence and the fact we need a gun violence prevention bill. Now. We demand the chance to debate these matters with on the House floor and have a vote. We must stand united and demand action. Paul Ryan, give us the vote.” (Honda live-streamed the speeches during the sit-in.)
Rep. Mark Takano of Riverside: “It’s time to end gun violence now, because I can’t stand to see one more member of our community killed by a gun. Congress has a responsibility to act.” (Takano live-streamed the speeches during the sit-in.)
Rep. Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii: “In all my time in Congress, the Republicans have not once allowed members to vote on any gun control legislation. This is an outrage — and it’s why I participated in the House sit-in.
“We owe it to the American people to try to get legislation passed that will ensure anyone who wants to buy a gun must first go through a background check and place restrictions on the powerful military-style weapons and high-capacity magazines such as was used by the terrorist in Orlando.
“Finally, we must keep guns out of the hands of terrorists. But we must also address the valid constitutional concerns that the ACLU and others have raised concerning the lack of due process and transparency for those who have mistakenly been placed on the No Fly List and Terror Watch List.”
Rep. Grace Meng of New York: “Enough is enough. I’m sitting with colleagues on floor of the House to demand a vote on sensible gun safety legislation. We have lost too many children. No more Newtowns, no more Oak Creeks, no more Charlestons, no more Orlandos …
“Our sit-in has ended after we won over the American people on the need to curb gun violence. We will continue to prevail. We will push ahead until we get a vote! Also proud of all the advocates, young people and social media users who stood with us to help make our sit-in such a huge success.”
Rep. Tammy Duckworth of Illinois: “I’m proud to join Congressman John Lewis and dozens of my colleagues as we sit in on the House floor today. We have had enough. I’m tired of seeing children who are sitting in their living rooms or bedrooms killed by bullets coming through the windows and walls of their homes. It is absolutely horrific.
“It is simply not acceptable that we continue to allow people to be mowed down in their homes, in their places of worship or even when they’re out having a good time on a weekend. We can work to end this violence with common-sense gun legislation. But to do that, the House needs to take action. The fact of the matter is all we’re asking for is a vote. Americans want this vote on gun violence. Do not silence my constituents — no bill, no break.”
Rep. Ami Bera of Sacramento: “When I talked to my daughter last night and she asked where I was, I told her I was proud to be with civil rights hero Congressman John Lewis to push for common-sense action to help prevent gun violence. As a doctor, I’ve cared for the victims of gun violence. We don’t have the power to bring back those who we’ve lost or prevent every tragedy, but we can make progress if we work together.”
Rep. Doris Matsui of Sacramento: “In the aftermath of the deadliest mass shooting in the history of our nation, in the wake of the senseless bloodshed that came before it, and in the face of the violence that continues to happen on our streets, Americans are standing together across our country and demanding action on gun violence.
“We sat in on the House floor to stand up against Republican inaction. We were asking for a vote on common-sense, bipartisan gun violence prevention legislation.
“As I was sitting in, people from all across Sacramento were calling in to my office, many times in tears and full of emotion, sharing their stories, saying they have had enough of the bloodshed. I want you to know that we heard you.
“Yet, in the midst of our ‘no bill, no break’ sit-in, Republican leaders adjourned the House without the vote we were calling for. But they will not silence our voices.
“I still have hope. When I joined my hero, Congressman John Lewis, my Democratic colleagues, and the American people in front of the U.S. Capitol steps, we committed to long-term work on gun violence. I know that with all of you behind us, we will overcome violence with action. We will disarm the hate. We will save lives.
“There are immediate steps that we can take to prevent guns from ending up in the wrong hands. We should be voting on bipartisan legislation that would close the indefensible loophole that allows suspected terrorists to purchase deadly weapons in our country. If you’re too dangerous to fly, then you’re too dangerous to buy a gun. And, we should be strengthening and expanding our background check system.
“Gun violence has become all too familiar in our communities. Lives are on the line, and it is past time that we respond with action. I will keep up the fight in Congress, but I need you with me. Every voice calling for reform matters.”