Rebellious Democrats disrupt House, stage protest over guns

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Pounding his gavel, House Speaker Paul Ryan faced a deeply and dramatically divided House as he tried to regain control of the House floor late Wednesday night, after 168 of the 188 total House Democrats staged an unprecedented sit-in that started before 12 noon in Washington and stretched past midnight into Thursday morning.

"The House will be in order. The chair wishes to make an announcment regarding the decorum in the House chamber," Ryan said trying to be heard over the shouts of angry Democrats who shouted out the chant "No bill, no break. No bill, no break."

Ryan tried to ignore the shouting and proceed with a vote on a previously scheduled and unrelated measure to overturn a veto by President Barack Obama.

Democrats at one point shouted "Shame, Shame." They accused Ryan of blocking a vote on a bill that would prevent people on the "no fly list" from buying guns.

The call for additional gun restrictions comes after the Orlando mass shooting by a man who claimed allegiance to the terror group ISIS and had purchased an assault weapon, despite having been investigated by the FBI.

Some Democrats held up paper with names of shooting victims, challenging their Republican colleagues to go on the record with a vote on the gun restrictions.

"Where is our moral leadership? Where is our courage?" said Georgia Congressman John Lewis, "How many more mothers, how many more fathers need to shed tears of grief before we do something?"

Representative Lewis, one of the few living leaders from the civil rights movement started the sit-in about 11:30a.m. EST Wednesday.

Congresswoman Barbara Lee was among the California representatives who joined the sit-in, holding a photo of an Oakland teenager Regginae Jefferies who was fatally shot June 14th in Oakland.

"Are they more afraid than the children at Sandy Hook?" asked Rep. Mike Thompson, D-Calif., referring to the 2012 shooting that killed 26 people, including 20 elementary school children, in Newtown, Connecticut. "What is so scary about having a vote?"

Republicans declared a recess that shut off the House televised video feed, but California Democrat Scott Peters and others turned to their cell phones and social media, live-streaming video of the action to the public online throughout the day. Bay Area Congressman Eric Swalwell (D-California) also streamed video of the speeches.

Thirty-four Senators joined the protest according to the office of House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-California).

Those Senators included Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nevada), Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont), and Chris Murphy, (D-Connecticut) who had waged a nearly 15-hour filibuster last week to force votes in the Senate on gun legislation. Those votes failed Monday night.

The battle was also being waged on Twitter, Periscope, Facebook, and other social media, as Democrats posted video, photos and messages under #Sitin, #NoBillNoBreak, and #Holdthefloor.

Republican House Speaker Ryan also took to Twitter and appeared on television calling the sit-in a publicity stunt and saying the gun bill was already voted down in the Senate. He and others used the opposing hashtag #StoptheStunt.

Visitors watched from the galleries. A crowd of several hundred gun control advocates gathered outside the Capitol and cheered as Democrats addressed them.

Congress remains gridlocked over gun control, a divide even more pronounced in a presidential election year. The sit-in had the feel of a 1960s-style protest, as some lawmakers sat on the floor, others in their seats.

Republicans had staged a similar protest in 2008. Democrats controlling the House at the time turned off the cameras amid a GOP push for a vote to expand oil and gas drilling. Republicans occupied the floor, delivering speeches after then-Speaker Nancy Pelosi sent the House on its August recess. Pelosi ordered the cameras turned off.

Republicans ultimately forced the drilling provision to be attached to a stopgap spending bill.

C-SPAN, a cable and satellite network that provides continual coverage of House and Senate floor proceedings, does not control the cameras. They're run on authorization by legislative leaders.

During Wednesday’s sit-in, Democrats posted the Capitol's main telephone number, which was overwhelmed, and urged constituents to call their Congressional representative and request a vote.