Democrats stage Congress sit-in to call for gun control after Orlando massacre

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a pink background.

Democratic lawmakers have occupied the House of Representatives in the US Congress – after Republicans blocked basic gun safety measures.

The horrific massacre at Pulse nightclub, which left 49 people dead and 53 injured, was carried out with legally-bought assault weapons, despite the FBI monitoring the gunman over terrorism concerns.

In the wake of the massacre, LGBT groups have rallied around the gun control cause: but majority Republicans in Congress have been unwilling to move, with four separate basic bills blocked, including basic background checks.

In response, minority Democrats held an unprecedented sit-in on Capitol Hill last night, occupying the chamber as a form of protest.

The group of politicians, led by civil rights veteran Congressman John Lewis, staged a non-violent sit-in overnight, halting the business of the House.

Republicans adjourned the chamber early on Thursday, with no more votes until after the 4 July holiday – but the Democrats have remained in the chamber overnight.
Some waved rainbow flags, while others chanted “No Bill, No Break”.

Lewis said: “We have lost hundreds of thousands of innocent people to gun violence. Tiny little children. Babies, students, and teachers. Mothers and fathers. Sisters and brothers. Daughters and sons. Friends and neighbours. And what has this body done?”

A letter to Republican Speaker Paul Ryan signed by senior Democrats says: “We stand with thousands of brokenhearted families who have not been served by this Congress, and millions more who are counting on us to find the moral courage to do the right thing.

“We stand together in our refusal to sit by while this Congress abdicates its fundamental responsibility to protect American families from harm.

“We urge you to keep the House in session until we have robust debate and votes on expanding background checks and banning the sale of firearms to suspected terrorists.

“Until then, we are resolved and committed to speaking out for victims, survivors, and families at home who deserve a vote. We are prepared to continue standing on the House floor whenever the House is in session to assist you in bringing these bills to a vote.”

Republicans have dismissed the sit-in as a “publicity stunt”.