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Was the Historic #NoBillNoBreak Sit-In a ‘Publicity Stunt’?

Democrats are holding a sit-in for legislative action on gun control. But is it a whole publicity stunt? (C-SPAN/Screenshot)

Democrats are holding a sit-in for legislative action on gun control. But is it a whole publicity stunt? (Screenshot, via C-SPAN)

US Democratic representatives protested by holding a sit-in on the House floor in Washington DC. Seriously?

Yes, it's really happened. It was a moment in history.

Was it legal?

The civil disobedience act--technically breaking the law nonviolently--is a rare act in the United States Congress. The last sit-in was eight years ago by Republicans.

Led by Representative John Lewis, over 200 Democrat elected leaders called for legislative action on gun control ASAP.

They said they've had enough with four gun control bills hacked down by the Republican majority, even nearly a week and half after the deadliest act of gun violence in American history in Orlando.

They're referenced gun violence in Chicago, Baltimore, other cities, and terror attacks like San Bernardino, Charleston, and more.

Senator Chris Murphy pulled a 15-hour filibuster that forced a vote in the Senate on gun reform bills that didn't pass. So, House Democrats then huddled and pulled a sit-in on Wednesday.

Although, Speaker Ryan said it was a "publicity stunt." Let's take a look:

They last for 24 hours.

Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren and other sit-in participants on the House floor. (U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren / Facebook)

Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren and other sit-in participants on the House floor. (U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren / Facebook)

#NoBillNoBreak participants didn't budge for 24 hours.

Coffee, food was ordered and delivered. Representatives had pillows, blankets, and phone chargers. They were serious.

The protesting Democrats said they'd hold the House floor until another vote is called for a gun control bill.

Minority House leader Nancy Pelosi said:

“Members, they have just had it. What's important about this moment is the spontaneity of it all on the part of each and every member. All of them want to be a part of the echo chamber against gun violence in our country.”

President Obama even chimed in:

And yet, when the sit-in was called by Representative Lewis, the Republicans called the House into recess. That also shut off the public access television channel C-SPAN from airing footage of the House floor.

Representatives on the House floor instead aired their protest live via Facebook Live and Periscope. The streams went on for hours and garnered heavy social media attention ...

Speaker of the House Paul Ryan called the whole thing a "publicity stunt"

Paul Ryan present as Speaker of the House (C-SPAN/Screenshot)

Republicans were confused, bored, hesitant, and totally not cool on the whole act of civil disobedience by the Democrats.

Speaker of the House and longtime Republican congressman Paul Ryan said it was a political stunt to make the Republicans look bad:

"This is not about a solution to a problem. This is about trying to get attention."

Paul Ryan actually came back to the House floor around 10 hours into the sit-in to hold other votes not on gun control. Except, the sit-in participants and supporters weren't having it. The House floor effectively went into chaos.

The Republican leadership tried to end the sit-in to no avail. Ryan announced another recess and the Democrats stayed put, still pushing forward with their call for a vote on gun control legislation.

There's controversy over the gun control bill they're debating on.

Congresswoman Tammy Duckworth on the House floor calling for action on the no-fly, no-buy gun control bill. (Gavin Newsom / Facebook)

Congresswoman Tammy Duckworth on the House floor calling for action on the no-fly, no-buy gun control bill. (Gavin Newsom / Facebook)

There's a no-fly, no-buy bill Democrats want to pass.

It's a gun control bill based off the terrorist watch list. Because of the Orlando shooter's ISIS link, the bill aims to not let people on the government's terrorist watch list have the freedom to buy a gun in America.

There's some issues with this bill because of a few debatable points:

  1. Gun freedoms

    It would hurt gun rights for Americans. Plus, the Republicans and Paul Ryan have had support from the National Rifle Association (NRA). You see, the organization stands by the Constitutional right to own a gun--the Second Amendment--and elected officials with financial and political support of the NRA may veer away from gun control legislation.

    Ryan was asked if his alleged $36,800 in support from the NRA was a reason why he didn't let a gun control vote go up tonight, he sidelined the question.

  2. The terrorist watch list

    The expansive no-fly list contains more than 600,000 names of suspected terrorists as of 2014.

    The NRA said in the past they don't want terrorists to have guns--and said law enforcement already gets alerts on whenever a person on the terrorist watch list purchases a gun.

  3. The loss of due process

    The terror watch list limits freedoms in terms of due process. Because the list is secret, the people on it don't even know they're on it until they try to fly.

    And while it may or may not effectively find terrorists, it may unfairly target certain minorities, ethnicities, and other populations. (Think: Arab-Americans.) And the fear is that this no-fly, no-buy gun control bill may let law enforcement and legislators further expand the terror watch list unfairly.

But 90% of Americans support banning gun sales to those on the terror watch list. Including the vast majority of conservatives.

And then they reconvened again ...

More than 12 hours into the sit-in, the House met for more business after midnight around 1 a.m. Chaos ensued again.

Crowds gathered outside the Capitol building as the sit-in continued.

After 24 hours, the sit-in ended on an unfinished note, failing to force a vote from the Republicans. Lewis promised the House Democrats would resume their fight for gun control when Congress reconvenes on July 5th:

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Was the Historic #NoBillNoBreak Sit-In a ‘Publicity Stunt’?

Patrick deHahn

Patrick deHahn is a freelance international news reporter, having contributed to The Atlantic online and Mic. He's worked at CNNMoney, the New York Daily News, and Voice of America. Patrick loves tweeting, reading, and grabbing coffee in either New York or Washington D.C. Tweet anything on politics or world conflict to him! Follow: @patrickdehahn.

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