Ryan Says House Sit-In Shifted Gun Debate

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – A 25-hour sit-in Democratic members staged on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives has changed the conversation regarding gun control legislation, asserts U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan.

Ryan, D-13 Ohio, was among the House Democrats who participated in the protest, led by U.S. Rep. John Lewis, D-5 Ga.

The Democrats were frustrated with the Republican Party’s refusal to take up votes on four gun-related bills in the aftermath of the shootings at an Orlando nightclub earlier this month.

The bills in question would prohibit individuals on the “no fly” list from being able to purchase a firearm; establish universal background checks; close the so-called Charleston loophole to provide time to complete background checks; and permit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to study the public health aspects of guns.

The Democrats began the sit-in Wednesday afternoon. The House stayed in session until 3 a.m. Thursday morning, when Speaker Paul Ryan forced a vote on an appropriations bill and adjourned the proceedings until after the Independence Day holiday.

Despite the adjournment, Democrats, sitting on the floor of the House chamber, continued their protest until Thursday afternoon.

“It shifted the national conversation in a big way,” Ryan told reporters after the protest ended. This debate was about whether Republicans want terrorists, criminals and individuals with mental health issues to be able to buy a gun, he said.

“This isn’t about taking anybody’s guns away,” Ryan said in countering what he described as “an old, tired argument” used against Democrats. He pointed to his pro-Second Amendment credentials, noting that he had been hunting in southern Ohio a couple of months ago and was out shooting with his stepson a couple of weeks ago.

“They’re going to have to defend this in the coming months,” Ryan remarked.

The sit-in drew sharp criticism from House Republicans, including Speaker Ryan, who called the protest a “political stunt.” He accused Democrats of trying to get on TV and pointed to fundraising solicitations.

“If this is not a political stunt, then why are they trying to raise money off of this – off of a tragedy?” the speaker asked.

“The reason I call this a stunt is because they know this isn’t going anywhere,” he added.

Tim Ryan expressed his disappointment at the House speaker’s characterization of the protest. He described the comment as “really beneath” the speaker.

The Mahoning Valley’s Ryan noted the protest bought so much attention that citizens are going to start thinking about the people in charge in Washington and about why Congress hasn’t acted on issues such as wages and transportation infrastructure.

“This is illuminating for a lot of people to see who is throwing sand in the gears,” he said. The episode also opens “the lines of argument as to why [Republicans are] really incapable of governing the country.”

Ryan didn’t rule out Democrats staging another sit-in when Congress reconvenes July 5. If Republicans don’t want to solve the problem, they need to step aside for “those of us who want to do this,” he said.

Copyright 2021 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.