Two local congressmen who are taking part in a sit-in on the House floor are speaking out about the protest and continued push for gun control in the wake of last week's mass shooting in Orlando.
Rep. Bob Brady of Pennsylvania and Rep. Donald Norcross of New Jersey are among the 168 House Democrats who sat down and “occupied” the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives Wednesday. The democrats are demanding a vote on measures to expand background checks and block gun purchases by suspected terrorists. The lawmakers chanted, “No bill, no break,” and called on speaker Paul Ryan to keep the House in session through a scheduled recess next week to debate and vote on gun legislation.
The protest is being staged in the wake of a shooting at a gay nightclub in Orlando that led to the deaths of 49 people. On Monday four gun control measures were voted down in the Senate on largely party line votes.
“Here we are waking up this morning and obviously having been back in the district the last few days and listening to our constituents who are absolutely outraged over the lack of progress in congress, particularly after the murders in Orlando,” Congressman Norcross told NBC10. “They just can’t understand why we can’t get something done.”
The protest is being led by Rep. John Lewis of Georgia who was also a prominent figure during the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s.
“A group of individuals very simply got together to say enough is enough,” said Norcross. “We’re going to try to force this vote and this is where we are today.”
Norcross described the type of measures the House Democrats wanted to enforce.
“There are 32,000 people a year who are killed by guns in this country,” he said. “Unacceptable by any measure. If you’re on a terrorist watch list you should not be allowed to purchase a gun.”
“Simple background checks to make sure that those people who are convicted felons or have other criminal backgrounds aren’t allowed to buy guns. That’s a success but this is just a step in the direction of making sure we cut down on those 32,000 people a year who are being butchered.”
Congressman Brady said they’re not pushing to take away weapons from responsible gun owners but simply want more extensive background checks.
“We’re not trying to take anybody’s gun away,” Brady said. “Just an extensive background check. People have been killed and what do we do? A moment of silence? That’s not good enough. We can’t keep telling people that we can’t try to do something to control this gun violence and when it happens we’re going to give you a moment of silence. We’re just asking for some more.”
Brady urged Republican lawmakers to help them in pushing for the gun control measures.
“It’s a Republican bill,” Brady said. “Put it on the floor and let’s put a vote on it. Let’s see what happens. They don’t have the conscience to vote? I’m sure the Republicans have the conscience to take the NRA money! Let’s put a vote on the floor. That’s all we’re asking for.”
Brady said the protest will continue until they see some type of action.
“I don’t know what they’re going to do or what they can do but whatever it is, we’re committed to staying on the floor until we get some kind of bill or some kind of commitment to put on the bill on the floor that we can vote on," he said.