Why The Democratic Gun Control Sit-In Isn't On TV

On Wednesday, what could've been a sleepy afternoon in Washington, D.C., was jolted into high drama and symbolic meaning, all thanks to a collection of Democratic representatives who descended on the House to, well, sit themselves down. That's right — Democrats held a sit-in style protest on the House floor on Wednesday, aimed at forcing additional votes on gun control proposals, of the same sort that the Republican-led Senate rejected on Monday. But oddly, the sit-in isn't being aired anywhere — so, why can't you watch the Democrats' gun control sit-in? Update: As of Wednesday afternoon, C-SPAN began airing a Periscope feed of the sit-in from Congressman Scott Peters' office. You can watch it here.

Earlier: There's actually a very simple reason. As The Hill details, GOP Rep. Ted Poe gaveled the House out of session in the early moments of the sit-in, and Speaker of the House Paul Ryan announced afterwards that the House would stay in recess until the demonstration was over. Since the House is technically not in session while the sit-in continues, that means that the cameras in the chamber have been switched off, depriving the public of a live, high-quality feed of what's going on.

Of course, there may be some underlying, ulterior motivations at work here. Needless to say, perhaps, but the Republicans have no interest in giving the Democrats a big, high-profile platform on guns, after the nearly 15-hour filibuster by Connecticut Sen. Chris Murphy last week. Sending the House into recess and thus cutting the feed might seem a simple enough way to avoid that, although resulting media coverage seems to be having the opposite effect.

If you're surprised to learn that the cameras in the House chamber can be switched on and off independent of the desires of the broadcaster — in this case the venerable, decades-old government and public affairs outlet C-SPAN — you're probably not alone. But as the channel has made clear, both in the tweet above and on the air since the sit-in began, it doesn't have control over whether the cameras are running. To the contrary, all it can do is air the feed when the cameras are on, and lay some info-graphics on top.

As such, the GOP leadership knew how it could keep this kind of demonstration from getting more comprehensive exposure — all it took was sending the House into recess, and cutting the cameras. That's not to say there's no footage available of what's been going on, however, as Rep. Scott Peters of California has been occasionally streaming from the House floor (in apparent defiance of the Sergeant at Arms, no less).

Still, it's bound to be disappointing if you're a loyal C-SPAN viewer. Whether you're there for the no-frills, in-depth political coverage or the charmingly dated on-screen graphics, this is the sort of dramatic moment — even if it ultimately amounts to political theater in the end — that you'd usually expect to see aired in full, and it's a shame the public was deprived of that.