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Democrats say they will occupy House floor until gun vote is held

By Russell Blair, The Hartford Courant

Democrats in the U.S. House said Wednesday morning they were prepared to occupy the floor of the chamber until a vote is held on gun control.

“Every American is calling for a vote,” said U.S. Rep. John Larson, D-Conn., speaking shortly before 11:30 a.m. “We will occupy this floor, we will not be denied a right to vote.”

Larson and the other Democrats, including the rest of the Connecticut delegation, then sat down on the floor in the well of the House in a protest led by U.S. Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., a noted civil rights leader.

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“We are turning deaf ears to the blood of the innocent and the concern of our nation,” he said. “Where is our courage?”

Last week U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., staged a near 15-hour filibuster to call on the Senate to vote on proposals to ban suspected terrorists from buying firearms and make changes to the background check system on the sale of guns. The ramped up pressure to hold a vote came after 49 men and women were shot dead in an Orlando nightclub by a man armed with a semi-automatic rifle.

Four competing gun control proposals from Democrats and Republicans all failed to get the 60 votes needed to be moved forward.

But in the House, where Republicans control the chamber by a wider margin, a vote on any gun control measures isn’t expected.

“Sometimes you have to do something out of the ordinary,” Lewis said. “There comes a time when you have to make a little noise.”

Staffers said the Democratic representatives were prepared to stay in the chamber until an agreement was reached to hold a vote.

Shortly after noon the House returned, with Rep. Ted Poe, R-Texas, presiding. He asked the Democrats assembled in the well to leave, and realizing that they would not, said the chamber was “out of order” and called for recess.

In a letter to House Speaker Paul Ryan, the group stated their goals. They called on Ryan to not let the chamber recess for its July 4 break until a vote is held on gun control.

“We stand together in our refusal to sit by while this Congress abdicates its fundamental responsibility to protect American families from harm,” they wrote.

Speaking earlier in the morning, Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., invoked the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, and said nearly 100,000 people had been killed by guns since the December 2012 massacre.

“Our constitution says we vote on these issues,” she said.

(c)2016 The Hartford Courant (Hartford, Conn.)

Visit The Hartford Courant (Hartford, Conn.) at www.courant.com

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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