On Wednesday, dozens of Democratic members of the House of Representatives launched a sit-in to protest inaction on gun legislation. Unrest in the House has been palpable since the mass shooting in Orlando earlier in June, perpetrated by a man who legally purchased a gun though he had recently been on a terrorism watch list. Immediately following a moment of silence in the House after the tragedy, Rep. James Clyburn demanded an end to congressional silence on the issue of gun legislation. And, on Tuesday, Clyburn sought to introduce two proposals, but Republicans refused to recognize him on the floor. So on Wednesday, about 40 representatives sat on the floor to demand recognition. What bills are House Democrats protesting over?
Clyburn intended to introduce two bills for debate in the House on Tuesday: one concerning background checks, and the other aimed at preventing people suspected of terrorist activity from purchasing firearms. The latter is called the "No Fly, No Buy" bill. The former is likely similar to, or the same as, a bill Clyburn pushed in 2015 called the Background Check Completion Act. That proposal aimed to close the loophole that allows people to legally purchase guns without a completed background check.
The "No Fly, No Buy" bill would prevent people who are on the government's No Fly list from purchasing firearms. This is a less ambitious bill than one voted down in the Senate on Monday that would have prevented people on the larger terrorism watch list from buying guns. A "compromise" bill narrowing the restriction to people on the No Fly list is expected to go to vote in the Senate on Thursday.
Wednesday's sit-in comes just days after Sen. Chris Murphy spearheaded a 15-hour-long filibuster, demanding that his colleagues on the right and left reach a consensus on gun legislation. Four bills, two from Democrats and two from Republicans, were voted down in the Senate on Monday following the filibuster.
The "No Fly, No Buy" proposal departs from common discourse on gun legislation in Congress and among the public, but the background check debate has been prominent for several years. Senate and House Republicans consistently vote down legislation that would require all legal gun sales to include a background check, though roughly 90 percent of the American public supports such legislation.
With their sit-in, dozens of Democratic representatives, along with senators joining in solidarity, are telling their colleagues as well as the American people that they have had enough with Republican obstinacy on the issue of gun legislation. Whether the House will debate the legislation the Democrats are protesting over remains to be seen.