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Demanding Action On Gun Control, House Democrats Stage Sit-In

Photo caption:

Photo by Rep. Chellie Pingree AP

This photo provided by Rep. Chellie Pingree, D-Maine, shows Democratic members of Congress, including Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga. (center), and Rep. Elizabeth Esty, D-Conn., as they participate in a sit-down protest seeking a vote on gun control measures.

Demanding action on gun control, about 30 Democratic members of the United States House of Representatives are staging a sit-in.

"Lawmakers are grouped in the well of the chamber, in front of the speaker's dais and in chairs in the front row," NPR's Sue Davis reports. "Some members are literally sitting on the floor of the House."

When the House was gaveled back into session a little after noon, Rep. Ted Poe, a Republican from Texas who was speaker pro tempore at the time, was shouted down by members.

"No bill, no break," they chanted. The House is scheduled to break on Sunday, and Democrats are demanding a vote on two bills before they go: one that bars anyone on the no-fly list from buying a firearm and another that broadens background checks for firearm purchases.

A prayer was said and members recited the Pledge of Allegiance, but once it became clear that regular business would not take place, Poe called for another recess.

AshLee Strong, a spokeswoman for House Speaker Paul Ryan, said the House "cannot operate without members following the rules of the institution, so the House has recessed subject to the call of the chair."

Rep. John Lewis, a Democrat from Georgia, announced the sit-in earlier this morning.

"We have lost hundreds and 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 neighbors — and what has this body done?" Lewis said, flanked by fellow Democrats. "Mr. Speaker, nothing. Not one thing."

Lewis' colleagues in the Senate held the floor for nearly 15 hours last week demanding much the same thing. Senate Democrats eventually succeeded in getting a vote, but all four gun control measures failed.

There is no live video of the demonstration on the floor because the cameras in the House are turned off once the chamber goes into recess.

However, some representatives, including Rep. Scott Peters, of California, has been streaming the speeches on the floor via Periscope.

NPR's Sue Davis says that filming on the floor is a violation of House rules, "but it's sort of un-enforceable unless the speaker directs the sergeant at arms to clear the floor."

NPR's Ailsa Chang reports that Democrats also voted to suspend the rules, but it's unclear if that vote matters considering that the House is not in session.

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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