The US Congress’ House of Representatives on Wednesday night was witness to perhaps the most uncommon picture in the recent past. The emotive issue of strict gun control, which has gained further precedence after Orlando shootout last week, led to Democratic Congressmen staging a sit-in inside the well of the house. The ruling party’s members were demanding a vote on strict gun control laws.
In what is being termed as America’s deadliest mass shooting, 49 people were killed in a pub in Orlando last week.
But the leadership of the Republican party, which holds a majority in the House, refused to budge to the demand for vote and instead shut off the television cameras used for live coverage.
The Democratic Congressmen, however, used their own smartphones to live telecast — through Facebook and other social media sites — the proceedings inside the House yesterday along with their sit-in in the House well. The protest was led by legendary Congressman John Lewis, who is known for his civil disobedience movement.
Those images of chaotic situation from inside the well of the House were rarely ever seen.
“Enough is enough,” said Indian American Congressman Ami Bera, as he joined his fellow Democratic lawmakers in the protest.
“Republicans denied us a vote, we sat on the Floor. We sat on the Floor, with John Larson presiding. When they turned off the House cameras, we livestreamed from our phones,” said Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi in her remarks on the House floor late last night.
“Because of you, they cannot they can try to shut down the Floor, but because of you, they cannot shut out the voices of the victims and the will of the American people. And now, as you hold up the names of people who have been victims of violence,” she said.
Democratic lawmakers were demanding that Paul Ryan, Speaker of the House of Representatives bring up a vote on commonsense gun violence prevention legislation before the House recesses.
Refusing to budge under pressure, Ryan described this as a publicity stunt by Democrats.
“This is nothing more than a publicity stunt. That’s point number one. Point number two is this bill was already defeated in the United States Senate. Number three, we’re not going to take away a citizen’s due process rights,” Ryan said.
Ryan, meanwhile, defended his decision to shut off the cameras and lights arguing that these are as per the House rules.
“This is an issue that ought to transcend party – it’s about saving lives and keeping our communities safe,” House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer said demanding that Republicans to hold a vote.
Earlier this week, the US Senate voted on four gun control amendments — two from Democrats and two from Republicans — after Senate Democrat Chris Murphy delivered a 15-hour floor speech demanding votes on gun control.
The Senate rejected all four measures, but lawmakers crafted a bipartisan compromise bill aimed at preventing terror suspects and people on no-fly lists or FBI watchlists from buying firearms.
(With inputs from the PTI)