10 Powerful Moments From the Congressional Gun Sit-In - Rolling Stone
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10 Powerful Moments From the Congressional Gun Sit-In

Here’s everything House Republicans didn’t want you to see from the Democrats’ more than 24-hour protest

Shortly before 11:30 Wednesday morning, Democrats in the House of Representatives staged a revolt. There would be no more business in their chamber of Congress, they declared, until Republican leadership called for votes on two bills: one that would ban individuals on the government’s no-fly list from purchasing weapons, and a second that would expand background checks on gun sales.

The GOP’s response? To hastily call a recess and cut the C-SPAN feed. Democrats, undeterred, live-streamed the protest — which ultimately lasted for more than 24 hours — on Periscope and other platforms.

Here’s everything House Republicans didn’t want you to see, from Rep. Bobby Rush’s emotional account of losing his son to gun violence to his colleague Debbie Dingell’s searing recollection of staring down the barrel of a gun.

1. John Lewis initiates the sit-in
Famed civil rights leader Rep. John Lewis kicked off the House occupation with a thundering speech lambasting his Republican colleagues for their inaction on guns.

“For months, even for years, through seven sessions of Congress, I wondered, ‘What would bring this body to take action?’ We have lost hundreds and thousands of innocent people to gun violence. Tiny little children. Babies. Students and teachers. Mother and fathers. Sisters and brothers. Daughters and sons. Friends and neighbors. What has this body done? Mr. Speaker, not one thing.”

2. Bobby Rush recalls losing his son to gun violence
After the C-SPAN cameras inside the House were shut off, Democratic lawmakers, led by Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, gathered on the Capitol steps to discuss the sit-in that had just begun inside the chambers. That’s where Rep. Bobby Rush of Illinois spoke of losing his son to gun violence 17 years ago.

“My son, in 1999, was shot…. What I remember most, besides this picture of my son laying in that hospital bed, swollen up twice his normal size — what I remember about that was my daughter, her mother falling on the floor… in the hospital, prostate, screaming. Screaming. She said, ‘Dad, dad, do something.’ I could not have felt more helpless. And then the awful, primal scream that only a mother, only a mother, only a mother could scream that primal scream. I never will forget the primal scream of my son’s mother. Shot down in cold blood on the streets of Chicago. It’s time to end this chorus of primal screams in our nation, and it’s time to end it right now.”

3. Keith Ellison’s mom demands action
Rep. Keith Ellison of Minnesota was forced to cut short a meeting with Trita Parsi of the National Iranian American Council when he got this stern message from his mother, Clida Ellison

4. Bernie drops by
Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders took some time out from his ongoing campaign to join his colleagues on the House floor Wednesday. 

5. Debbie Wasserman Schultz reads Gabby Giffords’ retirement letter
In the early afternoon Wednesday, Florida Congresswoman and embattled DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz took the dais to read a letter written by former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords. Giffords retired from Congress in 2012 after surviving an assassination attempt that has impaired her ability to talk and walk.

“Speaking is difficult for me,” a visibly emotional Wasserman Schultz read on Wednesday, quoting Giffords, “but I haven’t been silenced, and neither should the American people. Their representatives must vote to prevent gun violence.”

Giffords and her husband, Mark Kelly, now run the PAC Americans for Responsible Solutions, which advocates for gun control.

6. Elizabeth Warren brings the party
Around 8:30 p.m., Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren arrived at the House with an armful of donuts. (Wednesday also happened to be Warren’s 67th birthday.) 

7. Paul Ryan tries, and fails, to gavel the House into order
Around 10 p.m., Speaker Paul Ryan — who was not in the chambers when the sit-in began — returned to try and regain control of the House with a series of votes. “The chair appreciates that members will differ on matters of policy, and will seek to express those differences, but the chair would hope that the business of the House could be conducted in a fashion that respects positively on the dignity and decorum of this institution to which we all belong,” Ryan said.

He then called for a vote to override President Obama’s veto of the “fiduciary rule,” a provision that requires financial advisers to act in their clients’ best interests. Democrats, crowded on the House floor, waved signs with the names of gun-violence victims and chanted, “No bill, no break!” and, “Shame!” before breaking into song. Congress members sang a version of the Civil Rights anthem “We Shall Overcome,” changing the lyrics to “We shall pass a bill.” (The vote, which needed a two-thirds majority to pass, failed.)

8. Louie Gohmert rails against “radical Islam”
In one of the most contentious moments of the night, Rep. Louie Gohmert of Texas strode onto the House floor, interrupting remarks by California’s Brad Sherman on a bill that would ban individuals on the terror watch list from getting a gun.

“Radical Islam killed these people!” Gohmert croaked loudly, pointing to photos of Orlando shooting victims. (The poster of photos was being held by Rep. Corrine Brown, in whose district the shooting took place.) “We are talking about radical Islam!” he said

Gohmert was drowned out by Democratic lawmakers chanting, “No fly, no guns” and “No bill, no break.”

9. An emotional Debbie Dingell: “I know what it’s like to have a gun pointed at you.”
As the demonstration stretched into the night, Rep. Debbie Dingell of Michigan took the podium to deliver a fiery and deeply personal speech about living with an unstable gun owner. (Dingell, who has pushed measures that would restrict abusers’ access to guns, has spoken in the past about her father’s threats and violence.)

“I lived in a house with a man that should not have had access to a gun. I know what it’s like to see a gun pointed at you and wonder if you are going to live,” she said. “And I know what it’s like to hide in a closet and pray to God, Do not let anything happen to me. And we don’t talk about it, we don’t want to say that it happens in all kind of households, and we still live in a society that we will let a convicted felon who was stalking somebody, a domestic abuser, still own a gun.”


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