WASHINGTON — House Democrats, including at least nine from California, staged an ongoing sit-in in the House Chamber Wednesday to demand that Speaker Paul Ryan permit a vote on gun safety legislation.
They vowed not to allow a scheduled House break for Independence Day and to occupy the floor until the vote is allowed. “No bill, no break,” they shouted.
The country watched the dramatic session unfold on television via social media platforms Facebook or Periscope when C-Span cameras in the chamber were turned off pursuant to House rules.
U.S. Rep. Raul Ruiz, D-Palm Desert, stepped off the floor briefly to talk about the message he wanted to get across as an emergency room doctor who has treated the dying victims of gun violence.
“I have performed procedures in the emergency department on gunshot victims that would massage the heart…that would put my finger in the bullet holes to stop them from bleeding, that would have put a tube in their chest to drain the blood from their lungs,” he said.
“I’ve done CPR on dying patients while their family members, their loved ones…asked if their loved ones would make it or not,” he said. “I’ve had the experience of calling the time of death and telling their loved ones that the patient has died.”
Ruiz said he was sitting in to speak up for his patients, listing off victims he’s treated and the circumstances of their wounding: drive by accidents that killed children, drunken husbands killing wives.
“I’m speaking up to say ‘enough is enough,’” he said.
The members sitting in, some literally sitting on the floor in the well of the chamber, are demanding votes on a bill that would prevent those on no-fly lists from buying guns and another measure calling for universal background checks.
Speaker Ryan, in an interview Wednesday evening on CNN, called the Democrats’ action “publicity stunt tactics” that will not result in what they’re seeking. He said the Second Amendment rights of potential gun purchasers would be harmed by letting the measures become law. House leaders have blocked the so-called “No Fly, No Buy” bill from a vote 13 times.
U.S. Rep. Julia Brownley, D-Westlake Village, said in a floor speech that she is often asked by her Ventura County constituents whether what she called “common sense” gun control measures would infringe on those Second Amendment rights, and she has told them “absolutely not.”
“This is nothing radical we’re doing here today,” Brownley said. “All we’re trying to do is ask for a vote on common sense bills…We sit in here to stand up for our democracy.”
The House was technically in a recess during the sit-in, which was still under way eight hours after its start at 11:25 a.m. Eastern time. The atmosphere was by turns restive, raucous and festive.
“Mr. Speaker, give us a vote,” U.S. Rep John Garamendi, D-Fairfield, shouted in his floor remarks. “Mr. Speaker, where are you?”
Sean Maloney, a New York Democrat, spoke for many when he said, “This is the best day I’ve had in Congress…We need to stand for something.”
U.S. Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Haywood, predicted someone would be murdered in a Republican’s district before the night was through, adding, “Our constituents are fed up.”
Karen Bass, who represents West Los Angeles, said children in her district sleep in bathtubs to avoid being hit by bullets coming through their walls and have “traumatic stress syndrome” – not post-traumatic – from the violence they continue to see.
Sam Farr, D-Carmel, was on the floor and later released a statement: “It’s absurd that as our nation suffers a mass shooting nearly every other day House Republicans won’t let us vote on common sense solutions that will make our communities safer.
“We should ban assault weapons, we should require background checks and we should pass ‘No Fly, No Buy’ to prevent those on the no-fly list from purchasing guns for starters. I will do everything I can during my last few months in Congress to pass stronger gun laws,” Farr said.
Other Californians seen on the floor during the sit were Lois Capps, D-Santa Barbara, Pete Aguilar, D-San Bernardino, and Susan Davis, D-San Diego.
Issues: 114th Congress, Gun Violence Prevention