U.S. House Democrats are holding a sit-in Wednesday to demand action on gun control measures.
Democrats have been staging their protest, spearheaded by civil rights icon and U.S. Rep. John Lewis (D-GA,5) and U.S. Robin Kelly (D-IL,2), on the House floor since this morning. The lawmakers are calling for a vote on gun control bills before the chamber's Friday adjournment. The House will be in recess until July 5.
The legislators are chanting, "No bill, no break!" and Tweeting under the #NoBillNoBreak hashtag. Democrats are pushing for bills to prevent suspected terrorists from purchasing firearms and expand gun background checks.
Kelly delivered a speech on the House floor before engaging in the sit-in.
"This weekend on Meet the Press the speaker gave his fellow Republicans a pass to 'vote their conscience' with respect to their presidential support," she said. "I ask the speaker to give his colleagues a pass when it comes to voting on background checks - which 90 percent of Americans support.
"With each shooting, we're quick to say that it's a mental health problem. It's a family problem. It's a terror problem. But somehow, it's never a gun problem," Kelly continued. "It's time we look at the common denominator and accept that the root of the problem is about how guns get into the hands of those seeking to do harm."
U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) joined House Democrats in their protest against congressional Republican's inaction on gun control.
"I was proud to join my House colleagues from Illinois and around the country to say enough is enough--this Congress can no longer ignore the will of the American people for common sense gun reform," he said in a statement. "Too many guns are getting in the hands of dangerous people and that must change. We won't stop pushing until it does."
U.S. Rep. Tammy Duckworth (D-IL,8) is another Illinois Congressional Delegation member participating in the sit-in. She issued the following statement:
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.
Also on the House floor is U.S. Rep. Cheri Bustos (D-IL,17). Bustos used her Snapchat account to interview lawmakers after the "Republican Majority put the House in recess to turn off CSPAN's cameras during the sit-in," according to her office.
"Too many mothers and fathers have lost their children to gun violence and they deserve more than thoughts and prayers, they deserve action," Bustos said in a statement. "That's why I'm participating in the sit-in protest to demand Congress hold a vote to close loophole that allows suspected terrorists to buy guns, and a vote expanding criminal background checks to keep deadly weapons out of the hands of violent offenders. Americans are sick of inaction from Republicans in Washington and they deserve a vote on common sense proposals to protect our families."
U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL,9) is also sitting-in alongside her fellow legislators.
"For too long, our gun policies have been dictated by NRA-funded politicians. Well, no more," Schakowsky said in an email to supporters. "Too many people have died and too many families have been shattered, all because of special interest groups and lawmakers who make it all too easy for assault weapons to be brought into our communities.
"That's why I'm participating in this sit-in. I, like you, am tired of the pain and tragedy that assault weapons bring to our neighborhoods. Congress needs to stand up to the NRA, ban military-style assault weapons and pass commonsense gun safety measures. But it won't happen while members of Congress are being bought by the NRA."
Gun safety advocates are applauding the protest.
"These brave members of Congress will not back down until meaningful action is taken," reads an email blast from the Progressive Congress Action Fund Team. "We stand with them and applaud them for taking a bold stance while others have only offered thoughts and prayers and refused to vote for common-sense reforms that would reduce the amount of dangerous weapons."
House Speaker Paul Ryan told CNN that the ongoing action is "nothing more than a publicity stunt," saying "this is not a way to try and bring up legislation."
UPDATE 1 (6/23/16 - 1:37 a.m.): The sit-in on the House floor has gone into its 15th hour, with Democrats vowing to stay on the floor all night. Meanwhile, Republicans have made a procedural move to start a new legislative day, consider Zika funding legislation and then adjourn for recess until July 5.
UPDATE 2 (12:59 p.m.): House Dems have ended their more than 25-hour sit in over gun control legislation. House lawmakers said the unprecedented action is the beginning of continued actions to press for votes on gun control legislation in the chamber.
"A fire's been lit across out nation," said Vice-Chairman of the House Democratic Caucus and U.S. Rep. Joe Crowley (D-NY, 14) said. "It's a new day in Washington, it's a new way to fight, as well. We're not going to sit back and do nothing anymore."
Meanwhile, the U.S. Senate is set to vote on two pieces of legislation aimed at preventing individuals on the terror watch list from purchasing guns.