House Democrats today staged a historic sit-in on the chamber floor to demand congressional action to combat gun violence and pass common-sense gun reform laws.
Despite the recent mass shooting in Orlando targeting queer and trans people of color—the worst in U.S. history—a vote on Monday for legislation regulating access to firearms failed to pass. “As the worst mass shooting in our nation’s history has underscored,” Georgia Rep. John Lewis wrote in an letter to Speaker Paul Ryan about the action, “our country cannot afford to stand by while this Congress continues to be paralyzed by politics.”
Lewis has been joined by over 30 allies on the floor, including women like Rep. Elizabeth Warren, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, and former Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi.
Many of you have said that we cannot have another moment of silence without action to follow. These moments of silence have almost become a moment of denial because it’s a denial of what we need to do. We have to turn it into a moment of truth and actions—where we go from here.
Gun violence is a pressing issue for women and other marginalized communities. Ms. has written extensively about how gun violence uniquely impacts women, especially in domestic violence situations. 7,451 women were treated for gun shot wounds in U.S. emergency rooms in 2008; 1,865 women were murdered with guns in 2007. A gun in an abusive household increases a woman’s risk of dying by 500 percent. This kind of violence shouldn’t be normal, and these statistics shouldn’t be a reality for women in the U.S.—who are 11 times more likely to be murdered with guns than women in our peer nations.
John Lewis, who is leading the sit-in, is no stranger to this form of activism. A civil rights icon, he organized sit-in demonstrations protesting the segregated lunch counters in Nashville, as involved in the Freedom Rides of the 1960’s, and was severely beaten by Alabama state troopers on a day that became known as “bloody sunday.” Although the sit-in is unprecedented, Lewis proclaimed on the floor that nothing short of a public protest would do after an extended series of mass shootings followed up with congressional inaction.
In a statement to Broadly, Rep. Joyce Beatty echoed his sentiments:
What we are doing here on the House Floor is historic. We are demanding House Republicans listen to what the vast majority of their constituents and Americans across the country are clamoring for: meaningful action to curb our country’s gun violence epidemic. How many more families need to be torn apart in Ohio and the nation for Republicans to finally listen? As Martin Luther King, Jr., once said, ‘We are now faced with the fact that tomorrow is today. We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now.’ It is time we heed those words.
The Democratic leaders continue to hold the floor. Although Speaker Ryan has shut the cameras off in the House, updates and individual streams of the sit-in are being shared on Twitter with the hashtag #NoBillNoBreak. Ms. is proud to stand with the lawmakers taking action for common-sense gun reform. You can join us and stand in solidarity with them by signing this petition to end gun violence.