Was the Historic #NoBillNoBreak Sit-In a ‘Publicity Stunt’?
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.
— CNN Politics (@CNNPolitics) June 22, 2016
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.
PHOTO: Democratic members of Congress stage a sit-in protest to demand a vote on gun control measures pic.twitter.com/AIAb2OWMd2
— AP Politics (@AP_Politics) June 22, 2016
— Chris Cillizza (@TheFix) June 23, 2016
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.
Although, Speaker Ryan said it was a "publicity stunt." Let's take a look:
They last for 24 hours.
#NoBillNoBreak participants didn't budge for 24 hours.
Coffee, food was ordered and delivered. Representatives had pillows, blankets, and phone chargers. They were serious.
How long will Dems wage their sit-in? Pelosi: "Until we have a bill."
— Jennifer Bendery (@jbendery) June 22, 2016
— Yoni Appelbaum (@YAppelbaum) June 22, 2016
— The Boston Globe (@BostonGlobe) June 23, 2016
— Seth Moulton (@sethmoulton) June 23, 2016
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:
Thank you John Lewis for leading on gun violence where we need it most. https://t.co/vctfqAH5Wt
— President Obama (@POTUS) June 22, 2016
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.
Calls going out for extra phone batteries from Dems on House floor to keep livestreaming going for #sitin.
— Suzanne Gamboa (@SuzGamboa) June 23, 2016
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"
Republicans were confused, bored, hesitant, and totally not cool on the whole act of civil disobedience by the Democrats.
Been covering the House for 20-plus years & I've never seen anything like this Dem sit-in. Rs have no idea how to respond
— John Bresnahan (@BresPolitico) June 22, 2016
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."
— The Situation Room (@CNNSitRoom) June 22, 2016
— Paul Ryan (@SpeakerRyan) June 22, 2016
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.
— Ryan Struyk (@ryanstruyk) June 23, 2016
— Michael Skolnik (@MichaelSkolnik) June 23, 2016
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.
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:
- 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.
- The terrorist watch list
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.
- 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.
— Brandon Wall (@Walldo) June 23, 2016
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:
— John Lewis (@repjohnlewis) June 23, 2016
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.