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Gun control sit-in by House Democrats stretches into second day

Democrats vowed to continue the sit-in until Republicans agree to vote on gun legislation, including an amendment to prevent people on the controversial no-fly list from purchasing firearms.

by VICE News
Jun 23 2016, 1:00pm

Photo par Kevin Wolf/AP

Democrats from the House of Representatives entered the second day of an unprecedented sit-in on Thursday, continuing a marathon protest over the failure to pass legislation designed to curtail gun violence in the wake of the Orlando mass shooting.

The group, led by Rep. John Lewis, has occupied the lower chamber for more than 20 hours. At around 7am on Thursday, Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi vowed that Democrats would continue the sit-in until House Speaker Paul Ryan announced a vote on the gun-control measures, including an amendment which would prevent people on the controversial no-fly list from purchasing firearms.

Representatives began the sit-in around noon on Wednesday, some waved signs while others sand and chanted "No bill! No break!" Ryan attempted to restore order by banging his gavel and speaking over the chorus in an attempt to address non gun control-related matters. By evening, at least 168 House Democrats and 34 Senate Democrats had joined the sit-in, while protesters gathered outside the building in solidarity.

Democrats huddled together on the floor through the night and remained there even as Ryan officially adjourned the House at around 3:15am ET, until 5 July. At around 6:30am Thursday, only around 16 Democrats remained, including Pelosi.

Gun control continues to be a deeply partisan issue, even after a gun massacre at a gay club in Orlando left 49 dead and 53 injured. The dead had barely been counted when calls from Congressional Democrats for tighter gun regulation began.

But the NRA gun lobby's ongoing influence in Congress and fervid presidential and general election campaigning this year will likely trammel most progress on gun control.

"What we're doing with this debate on the Hill right now, it's like they're trying to stop a freight train with a piece of Kleenex," NRA president Wayne LaPierre said in an appearance on CBS's "Face the Nation."

On Monday, lawmakers failed to pass four measures related to firearm legislation which would keep AR-15's out of the hands of potentially dangerous Americans. President Barack Obama blasted the Senate, saying their failure to pass the bills translated to a failure on behalf of the American people.

Meanwhile, on Wednesday, an amendment which would expand the FBI's online surveillance abilities failed to get two-thirds of Senators' votes. The amendment would have given federal authorities access to citizens' browsing histories and email metadata without a warrant. Arizona Senator John McCain inserted the provision into a commerce bill on Monday evening.

"In the wake of the tragic massacre in Orlando, it is important our law enforcement have the tools they need to conduct counterterrorism investigations and track 'lone wolves'" McCain wrote in a statement.

The amendment required 60 votes in favor to pass. Only 58 senators voted for it, and 35 against.