House Democrats made history this week when they demonstrated a “Sit-In” on the House floor. The main goal of the Dems was to bring legislation to the floor that would expand background checks and ban gun sales to anyone who is on the no-fly watch list. They were hoping to vote on these measures before the House had its summer recess, lasting until July 5th. Speaker Paul Ryan and the rest of the House Republicans did everything in their power to stop the Democrats, and more importantly to delay the vote on gun control.
The United States is known for having relatively tame and “politically correct” elected officials. Needless to say the Democrats actions this week were unprecedented. The outcry for change began on Monday June 13th, when Speaker Ryan asked for a moment of silence in the Chamber in honor of the 49 who were killed at Pulse Night Club Less than 48 hours prior. A few Democratic House members walked out of the Chamber during the silence. Though they did receive criticism for “politicizing” the moment- they stood by their actions.
Connecticut Rep. Jim Himes (D) has been adamant on reforming gun control since the mass shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School took place in 2012. He said about walking out, “Our silence does not honor the victims; it mocks them”.
Speaker Ryan had cut off C-SPAN in an attempt to suppress the movement before it gained traction on social media and with the press; his efforts were unsuccessful. It is against the rules of the House to have any recordings or pictures taken on the floor of the Chamber. However, most of the 25-hour sit in was live streamed to Facebook and broadcast across the country on different media outlets. This recording allowed supporters of the Democrats to stand with them using hashtags such as #NoMoreSilence and #NoVoteNoBreak.
This clear violation of the rules was riveting for political geeks like myself. The support the Democrats received from all over the country brought attention to the issue of gun violence. Their frustrations were made clear. The use of social media in this demonstration was huge in getting the word out about the cause. Though Speaker Ryan closed the session until July 5th when they return from their recess, the Democrats plan to continue speaking about the issue and connecting with the constituents in their respective districts until then to make sure it is at the top of everyone’s list when they resume in two weeks.
The Democrats in the Senate and the House should continue using social media to prolong the conversation and make sure it doesn’t lose traction while they are on break.