Queens House reps stage sit-in to demand gun vote

Jun 22, 2016
In The News

The Queens congressional delegation hit the floor of the House of Representatives Wednesday as more than 50 Democratic representatives from across the country staged a sit-in to demand a vote on gun legislation.

U.S. Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-Jamaica) was positioned on the floor next to colleague John Lewis (D-Ga.), a veteran of the civil rights movement, who led the sit-in. U.S. Reps. Joe Crowley (D-Jackson Heights), who spoke from a podium above the seated reps, Carolyn Maloney (D-Astoria) and Grace Meng (D-Flushing) were also part of the protest, which involved using social media to get their message out.

Several Democratic senators crossed over into the House to support the sit-in, where cries of “no bill, no break” were heard in the chamber.

Meeks said Democratic representatives had come up with the idea the day before to offer short speeches concluding with Lewis, at which point they would sit on the House floor. Meeks said the protest sprang from Lewis’ exasperation over Congress’ inaction on gun control.

“He said he was tired of just coming here after mass shootings and just having a moment of silence,” Meeks said. “Let’s take a vote on it. Let them know where you stand.”

Meeks said the group was pushing for expanded background checks and to prevent people on the federal “no-fly” list from being able to purchase a weapon. He said several senators, including Sens. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), had joined the congressional representatives during the day.

Meeks was adamant that they would stay as long as was necessary to achieve their goal.

“We’re not leaving. The House is not going to be able to operate until we get a vote,” he said. “Members are going to stay on the floor of the House until we get a vote.”

Once the sit-in began, House Majority Leader Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) let Texas Republican Ted Poe gavel a recess, which ended C-Span’s coverage of the official session. But the representatives immediately jumped onto their cell phones to express their frustration over Congress’s most recent failure to pass bills that would have denied suspected terrorists on the “no-fly” list the right to obtain firearms.

From the floor of the House, Maloney said, “It has been two days since the Senate failed to pass four pieces of legislation aimed at curbing gun violence prevention; two days since the Republican Party showed once again that they are willing to put the lives of millions of Americans at risk. And in the House, we cannot even get a vote. Time after time we have pushed for Congress to say ‘Enough is Enough!’ but our attempts have been blocked at every turn.”

The congresswoman went on to say she and her colleagues had been “pushed to the breaking point.”

She added, “I find it appalling that Speaker Ryan would allow the House to recess without bringing this to a vote. This inaction is an insult to those who have lost their lives to gun violence.”

In a telephone interview from the floor of the House, Crowley said: “Our message is simple: Let the House vote on commonsense gun violence prevention legislation and let us vote now.”

Determined to break the stalemate, he said: “We can’t keep holding moments of silence without taking action to prevent the next tragedy. We owe it to the victims in Orlando, and across the country, to take a stand and hold a vote. Speaker Ryan shouldn’t adjourn the House without addressing this crisis.”

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