House Republicans still don't seem to have quite worked out how to respond to Democrats' gun control sit-in on Wednesday. As POLITICO reported, "The protest seemed to catch Republicans off guard. As another House Democrat prepared to speak after Lewis, the GOP lawmaker presiding over the chamber suddenly declared the House was in recess and shut off microphones." Democrats have asked House Speaker Paul Ryan to cancel the July 4 recess to focus on gun control legislation. Ryan's spokeswoman, AshLee Strong, said in a statement, "The House cannot operate without members following the rules of the institution, so the House has recessed subject to the call of the chair."
Since the House isn't officially in session, the sit-in, led by civil rights icon Rep. John Lewis, is unfolding largely on Twitter and Periscope. Democrats participating in the sit-in are sending out their missives to social media (they're technically not allowed to do this), but Republicans have been largely silent over the last few hours.
Granted, they might not have been able to predict the time and place, but the fact that the GOP seem so unprepared for something like this is a little baffling. Since the Orlando massacre, which left 49 people dead and will be remembered as the worst mass shooting in our nation's modern history, we've seen four separate gun control measures get struck down in the Senate, not to mention the already famous 15-hour filibuster, led by Connecticut Sen. Daniel Murphy. None of that really accomplished anything, though (from a legislative perspective, if not an emotional one), so Democratic frustration is rising. Thus, it seems strange that Republicans seem so taken aback by this latest effort — as though they figured people were done being angry and scared and sad.
The New York Times noted that Ryan could, in theory, have the protestors removed by force. However, given their number — reportedly around 70 and growing — going that route could easily be a logistical disaster, not to mention a public-relations one. For now, the Republicans appear to simply be doing their best to shut down media coverage of the event, and otherwise just... waiting it out.
Still, the sit-in is relatively young, and it's anyone's guess how much longer it will last. Hopefully, for the GOP's sake, Republicans manage to produce some sort of coherent, unified response, and one that doesn't take too long. Ryan, at least, will probably have to make more definitive sort of statement in the near future. Let's hope it's one that actually helps accomplish something.