US & Canada

US Democrats end gun control sit-in

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Media captionSee footage from inside the House of Representatives during the protest

US Democrats have ended their sit-in protest over gun control after more than 24 hours occupying Congress.

Lawmakers spent the night refusing to yield the floor, sharing stories of how gun violence had affected their voters and posting on social media.

The protest comes in the wake of the recent shootings in Orlando, the deadliest in modern US history.

Republicans, who control Congress, dismissed it as a "publicity stunt" more interested in making headlines.

Earlier on Thursday they adjourned the chamber early with no more votes until after the 4 July holiday.

But the protest continued for a few more hours until Representative John Lewis, a civil rights veteran, brought it to an end at about 13:00 local time (17:00 BST).

At its height on Wednesday evening, congressmen had chanted "no bill, no break" and sang 1960s-era protest songs on the floor of the House of Representatives.

Image copyright Twitter

Entrenched divide: Anthony Zurcher, BBC North America

Depending on one's perspective, the sit-in was either a shameless publicity stunt in advance of a dangerous piece of legislation or the purest expression of democracy and civil disobedience since the 1960s.

But as Democrats chanted, waved signs and sang in protest, there was no debating it was a historic break with congressional traditions that has little precedent in modern times.

The display seems unlikely to alter the dynamic in a House dominated by conservatives overwhelmingly opposed to new gun regulations. If anything, after a night of sniping and rancour across the partisan divide, the two sides may be even more deeply entrenched.

Republicans view the use of the terrorist watch list to prevent firearm purchases as giving the government the power to suspend due process with next to no judicial oversight. Democrats counter that it's a common-sense first step towards addressing rampant gun violence.

Both see their position as guided by principles to be defended to the end, a prospect that makes this dispute likely to be settled only at the ballot box in November.


"While the Americans don't always expect us to win, they do expect us to fight," said Democratic Rep Al Green.

Scores of gun-control advocates and protesters remained fixed outside the Capitol to support the demonstration.

The Democrats' protest follows the gun attack on 12 June, when a man claiming allegiance to the so-called Islamic State group, Omar Mateen, killed 49 people at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida.

Congress has not passed significant gun control legislation since 1994.


At the scene - Ashley Gold, BBC News, US Congress

About two dozen gun control advocates were gathered outside the Capitol building on Thursday morning, tired but intended to stay put while a dwindling group of Democratic House members continued a sit-in inside.

Honora Laszlo, from Arlington, Virginia was touched by gun violence at 15, when her mother's best friend was killed by her estranged husband at age 47.

In another instance, her close family friend was shot to death in front of his family over an argument over baseball.

Most people here say the Newtown school massacre in Connecticut, in which 26 children and adults were killed, is when they got involved in gun control advocacy, she said.

But for Ms Laslzo, it was something different. She said the killing of Trayvon Martin in Florida was indicative of National Rifle Association "culture", and that's what compelled her to act.

Ms Laslzo said the time has come to "make trouble" to force legislation on gun control and it is no longer acceptable to quietly ask for change.