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Democrats take cue from Indian legislators, stage chaotic sit-in on House floors over gun control legislation

News Agencies | Updated on: 10 February 2017, 1:48 IST

If you thought wreaking havoc on the floors of the Parliament was the average Indian legislator's forte, then think again. US democrats of the House of Representatives have proven otherwise.

In the wake of the Orlando massacre - the deadliest mass shooting in the history of America - the Congressmen of the Democratic party have been lobbying a legislative mandate to initiate gun control in the United States. Their method of protest? An unprecedented sit-in inside the well of the US House of Representatives.

The leadership of the Republican party, which holds a majority in the House, refused to budge and shut off the television cameras used for live coverage.

The Democratic Congressmen used their own smartphones to live telecast - through Facebook and other social media sites - the proceedings inside the House along with their sit-in demonstrations in the House well.

"Enough is enough," said Indian American Congressman Ami Bera, as he joined his fellow Democratic lawmakers in the protest, which was led by legendary Congressman John Lewis known for his civil disobedience movement.

"Republicans denied us a vote, we sat on the Floor. We sat on the Floor, with John Larson presiding. When they turned off the House cameras, we livestreamed from our phones," said Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi in her remarks on the House floor late last night.

"Because of you, they cannot. They can try to shut down the Floor. But because of you, they cannot shut out the voices of the victims and the will of the American people. And now, as you hold up the names of people who have been victims of violence," she said.

Democratic lawmakers demanded that Paul Ryan, Speaker of the House of Representatives, bring up a vote on commonsense gun violence prevention legislation before the House recesses.

Refusing to budge under pressure, Ryan described this as a publicity stunt by Democrats.

"This is nothing more than a publicity stunt. Thats point number one. Point number two is this bill was already defeated in the United States Senate. Number three, were not going to take away a citizens due process rights," Ryan said.

"Were not going to take away a citizens constitutional rights without due process. That was already defeated in the Senate. And this is not the way to try and bring up legislation," he told CNN in an interview.

Ryan defended his decision to shut off the cameras and lights arguing that these are as per the House rules.

House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer demanded that Republicans hold a vote on legislation on gun violence.

"After the unspeakable slaughter of 49 innocent people in Orlando earlier this month, it is unconscionable that House Republicans would continue to block a vote even on commonsense safeguards, including expanding background checks and preventing dangerous firearms from being sold to terror suspects," Hoyer said.

"This is an issue that ought to transcend party - its about saving lives and keeping our communities safe," he said.


First published: 23 June 2016, 1:02 IST