Democrats Sit In Over Gun Legislation while SCOTUS Releases Rulings Left and Right

Democrats Sit In on Gun Control Amendments

So! As you have perhaps learned by now, many Democrats have joined together in a sit-in on the floor of the House to try to force agreement on an amendment that would prohibit people on a government terrorist watch list from buying guns. The situation, as NYT put it, “led to pandemonium,” especially in the hands of relatively new Speaker of the House Paul Ryan.

The standoff, which began with a Democratic sit-in on the House floor just before noon on Wednesday, did not end until about 3 a.m. Thursday when Mr. Ryan — barreling over Democrats’ objections — took the rare and provocative step of calling a vote on a major appropriations bill in the wee hours and without any debate. He then adjourned the House, with no legislative votes scheduled until July 5.

You can see a rough timeline of the whole situation here; some highlights are when Ryan ordered the cameras in the House shut off to try to deflect attention from the sit-in, when Elizabeth Warren arrived with Dunkin’ Donuts, and when Bernie Sanders appears to have arrived at exactly 4:20 pm. The evening featured chanting, singing, and Periscoping. Also, in the course of looking for that I found the last time this move was pulled, in 1995. From the NYT in 1995:

“In the House, where members had been promised that they could leave by 2 P.M., solid Democratic opposition to adjournment embarrassed Republicans into staying. The final vote was 361 to 32…. After the House vote, Republicans did not resume business but called an indefinite recess; later, they said it would last until Monday. Democrats stayed, shouting, ‘Work, work, work,’ then held a two-hour rally, although Republicans turned the television cameras off and ordered the House restaurant to close.”

Some things change, some things stay the same.

All jokes aside, however, and aside from the logistics of the sit-in there’s a lot to be discussed as far as the actual legislation itself. The bill itself only limits gun ownership for people on the government’s “terrorist watch list,” the contents of which are secret and inaccessible to the public. Also secret is how and why people are added to or removed from the list. As most security measures that ostensibly prevent terrorism in the US do, terrorist and no-fly lists appear to disproportionately target Arab-Americans and Muslims. As Gawker puts it:

The no-fly list is a civil rights disaster by every conceivable standard. It is secret, it disproportionately affects Arab-Americans, it is error-prone, there is no due process or effective recourse for people placed on the list, and it constantly and relentlessly expands. As of 2014, the government had a master watchlist of 680,000 people, forty percent of whom had “no recognized terrorist group affiliation.” This is both an absurdly large number of people to arbitrarily target in gun control legislation, and far, far too few to have any meaningful effect on actual gun ownership, let alone gun violence.

Discourse around this is very emotionally charged, with people feeling relief at seeing any action at all around gun control legislation, people who fear that if this legislation does pass it will provide a basis for surveilling and targeting Black and brown people and Muslims, and people who feel both.

So what’s the outlook, then, on this legislation actually becoming law after this sit-in? The House is on a break right now until later in July, so nothing is happening on it right now. According to Reuters, “Representative Steny Hoyer, the No. 2 Democrat in the House, told Reuters that lawmakers would now go back to their home districts to try to build support for legislation,” and Rep. John Lewis of Georgia, who led the sit-in, said “We must keep the faith and we must come back here … more determined than ever before.”

SCOTUS’s Votes

The SCOTUS released many rulings today on important cases! Here’s a brief rundown. (There will also be a major SCOTUS ruling announced Monday on abortion-related case Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt!)

+ In the case of Fisher vs. University of Texas at Austin, the case in which Abigail Fisher sued UT claiming that she, a white woman, was only denied admission to UT because of affirmative action. The SCOTUS voted 4-3 that UT’s affirmative action policy is constitutional and can continue to run (it was a seven-person vote, I believe, because Elena Kagan recused herself).

+ SCOTUS had a split vote, 4-4, on a case regarding DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals)/DAPA (Deferred Action for Parents of Americans), which has the end result of leaving the original ruling against a proposed that the case was appealing in place. This means that Obama’s proposed plan, which would have shielded up to five million undocumented people from deportation, is blocked from moving forward. There will likely be another attempt at pushing it through and/or an appeals process, but for the time being, millions of people are left vulnerable.

+ The SCOTUS was also split on a ruling in the Dollar General case, which concerned whether the tribal courts of the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians had the right to prosecute the sexual assault of a teen Choctaw boy. The split vote means that the tribal court ruling will be upheld, and the tribal courts will be able to retain their jurisdiction over crimes that occur on tribal land.

Order in the Court

There were also several important rulings today that didn’t happen in the SCOTUS.

+ A federal judge has struck down restrictions on protests at the Republican National Convention, which would have “certain items, including large backpacks, tape and string, and [limited] where within the 3.5 square mile zone demonstrators can speak and hold a parade.”

+ Baltimore’s Officer Caesar Goodson, the driver of the van that Freddie Gray died in and the only one of the officers involved with his death to be charged with murder, was found not guilty on all counts in a verdict released today.

+ A federal court has ruled that a Virginia school district must allow a trans teen boy to use the boy’s restroom.

+ One of the largest school districts in North Carolina has announced that students can use the facilities appropriate to their “self-declared identities”, in defiance of Pat McCrory’s anti-trans bathroom policies. McCrory’s camp is not pleased, calling it “”purposely breaking state law” and a move “that changes the basic expectations of privacy for students.” In point of fact it’s not clear whether the policy actually does contradict state law, given that the Justice Department filed a lawsuit against HB2 earlier this year.

Law & Order

+ Dennis Hastert, serial child abuser and former Speaker of the House, has surrendered himself to “serve 15 months in a federal prison hospital in Minnesota.” The Chicago Tribune predicts that “the sentence is expected to be about 12½ months with credits for good behavior.”

+ You may have read previously about Patrick Fox/Richard Riess, a Canadian man who dedicated his life to harassing and defaming his ex-wife over the internet, and boasted he couldn’t be stopped because he was in Canada and his ex-wife was in Arizona, meaning that law enforcement agencies wouldn’t believe he was a credible threat. Now he’s been arrested after crossing the US border. He was deported back to Canada, but his ex-wife says she worries he’ll try to come into the country again. She would like to file a defamation suit against him but cannot afford a lawyer. Here’s her fundraiser.


+ Toronto’s police chief agreed this week to apologize for raids on gay bathhouses in Toronto in 1981.

On 5 February 1981, 286 men were arrested on charges of prostitution and indecency when uniformed and plainclothes police officers stormed four of the largest gay bathhouses in the city. It remains one of the largest mass arrests in Canadian history, but the raids are now better remembered as the country’s equivalent to the Stonewall riots. “Gay people realized that they had to band together, they had to get political, and they had to stand up for their rights,” said Ron Rosenes, who was 33 when he was arrested at the Romans II bathhouse that night.

+ On Tuesday, 18-year-old Genele Laird was arrested at Madison, WI’s East Towne Mall; her arrest included officers kneeing her, punching, tasing, and putting a hood over her head, as they claim she was resisting arrest. Many in the Madison community are protesting her treatment and demanding her release from police custody.

“Here is a 120-pound kid, 18 years old,” said Caliph Muab’El, executive director of Breaking Barriers Mentoring Inc. “She was thrown to the ground, bag put over her head, punched, kicked and Tased … If that isn’t excessive force, I don’t know what is.”

Election News

+ Bernie Sanders has told C-SPAN “that he will likely not be the Democratic nominee for president.”

+ At Gawker, Ashley Feinberg considers the possibility of Trump quitting the race, and the ways that could potentially happen.

+ A federal lawsuit filed this week “accuses Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump of repeatedly raping a 13-year-old girl more than 20 years ago” at parties hosted by Jeffrey Epstein, a wealthy investor and convicted sex offender. The victim says that at the time of the assault, she was told her family would be “physically harmed if not killed” if she told anyone. Gothamist reports that “The constant media spotlight on Trump, taxing her emotionally and mentally since last summer, apparently pushed her to come forward.”

+ On Tuesday in this column we noted that Trump has been spending campaign funds on his own companies, and now someone explores what I’ve been wondering since then: is that legal? The former chief ethics lawyer for George W. Bush says kind of, but Trump “has to walk a fine line when it comes to how much he’s charging himself.” If there’s one thing Trump is good at, it’s restraint, judiciousness and walking fine lines!

Grab Bag

+ Missouri has an openly gay Miss Missouri, Erin O’Flaherty, for the first time.

Openly gay Erin O'Flaherty smiling as she is crowned Miss Missouri

Erin O’Flaherty being crowned

+ Several different sites are circulating the demonstrably fake story that a Syrian refugee raped a chlid in Idaho. The story, which is, again, not true, was reportedly made up by “a small group of people in Twin Falls County whose life goal is to eliminate refugees.”

+ A group of pro-choice activists have used drones to deliver abortion pills to Northern Ireland, where abortion is illegal except when the mother’s life is at risk.

+ North Carolina’s voting laws are back in court to determine the legality of voter ID laws.

+ Paul Ryan says he’s got a new proposal that would replace the ACA, but in actuality it’s not very new or very good.

His document, which is a 37-page white paper rather than a piece of legislation, is still thin on details. It doesn’t include information about exactly how many people would be covered, exactly how much the proposal would cost, or exactly how much assistance Americans would receive in the form of tax credits to help them buy insurance. Instead, the paper cobbles together a collection of well-worn GOP proposals — like establishing high-risk pools for Americans with pre-existing conditions, allowing Americans to buy insurance across state lines, offering insurance to people with pre-existing conditions only if they’ve maintained continuous coverage, block granting the Medicaid program, and expanding Health Savings Accounts (HSAs) — that Republicans have been floating for the past two presidential election cycles. Though these ideas often make up the heart of Obamacare replacement plans, they haven’t been enough for Republicans to coalesce around actual legislation.

+ Pennsylvania state rep Charlie Dent had the bright idea to just package LGBT anti-discrimination legislation and RFRA together as a twofer — what could go wrong?

Rep. Charlie Dent (R-PA) told BuzzFeed Tuesday that he plans to introduce a bill next month that would ban some forms of discrimination against LGBT people, but with exemptions to allow some discrimination by religious groups. He believes such a bill would actually have a chance of advancing because it would be sponsored by a Republican and because its “religious liberty protections should also give Republicans more comfort.” He seemed to suggest he was interested in allowing religious organizations to make hiring decisions based on their faith, like how Catholic organizations can only hire Catholics. “I’d be hesitant to expand that to the private sector,” he said, though he did not clarify exactly how we was contemplating classifying organizations. “That is something we would have to work out.”

(This is not a good idea for a bill, and will not get very far, I don’t think.)

+ In yet more data that affirms the Affordable Care Act has helped people get healthcare, “78 percent of new Medicaid participants reported they wouldn’t be able to get regular care without the expansion of the program,” and that rates of unmet healthcare for low-income people have dropped.

+ Today, the UK is voting on whether to leave the European Union or remain in it. ThinkProgress has a “procrastinator’s guide” if you need to catch up.

+ There’s a private lawsuit being filed against a private water company and engineering company for the (ongoing!) water crisis in Flint, MI — but some are worried it will help Michigan state officials and politicians escape responsibility for the urgent health crisis.

+ A report on the rising levels of violence against environmental defenders, especially indigenous people organizing to protect their land and rights.

+ For many people, it’s extremely expensive to exit the workforce to care for a family member.

+ An interview with BLM co-founder Alicia Garza on voting, disruptive black power, “all lives matter” and more.

Why is disruptive black power important?

It creates room to challenge the status quo, and to demonstrate our ability to stop bad things from happening. How disruptive black power is important is when it is directed strategically — disrupting institutions and corporations that prey upon our people is a great way to immediately stop harm, while also creating a political stage to win hearts and minds. Every successful social movement in this country’s history has used disruption as a strategy to fight for social change. Whether it was the Boston Tea Party to the sit-ins at lunch counters throughout the South, no change has been won without disruptive action.

A portrait of Alicia Garza, co-founder of Black Lives Matter

Alicia Garza

+ A new report exploring climate litigation, filing lawsuits against corporations for their role in climate change.

+ Surprise! (Not a surprise.) State court judges are overwhelmingly white and male.

+ George W.’s daughter Barbara Bush is into Planned Parenthood, “enthusiastic supporter” of Cecile Richards.

“They are enthusiastic supporters of each other’s work,” Philip Galanes wrote, noting that the two women share a “great commonality: women’s and global health.” The Bush daughter runs an organization with her sister called Global Health Corps that supports young leaders in health care across the world. She told the Times that her organization and Planned Parenthood are both encouraging young people to create “social change.”

+ On how Orlando is being used to further anti-immigrant and anti-Islamic sentiment globally and in the US.

“The freedom that gay people should have — to kiss each other, to marry, to have children — is exactly what Islam is fighting against,” said [Geert Wilders, leader of the Netherlands’ far-right Party for Freedom], who is rare among anti-immigration politicians in Europe in also supporting gay rights. “They know exactly what it means to have Islam imported to your society.” Wilders, who said he would attend the Republican National Convention in the U.S. this summer, was encouraged that Donald Trump was making a similar pitch.

Before you go! Autostraddle runs on the reader support of our AF+ Members. If this article meant something to you today — if it informed you or made you smile or feel seen, will you consider joining AF and supporting the people who make this queer media site possible?

Join AF+!


Originally from Boston, MA, Rachel now lives in the Midwest. Topics dear to her heart include bisexuality, The X-Files and tacos. Her favorite Ciara video is probably "Ride," but if you're only going to watch one, she recommends "Like A Boy." You can follow her on twitter and instagram.

Rachel has written 1142 articles for us.


  1. I am having The World Is Tough overwhelm recently and need to figure out how to manage it. This was not a good day. DAPA and DACA aren’t enough, but if we can’t even have that?

    In other immigration-related news, this week SCOTUS agreed to hear Jennings v. Rodriguez, which is a disheartening counterbalance to the Obama administration’s support for DAPA/DACA. In most judicial circuits (except the 9th, the one involved in this case), certain people seeking entry to the United States are being detained indefinitely, without being given bond hearings and without the government having to prove that there is a good reason for the detention. They say this is about combatting terrorism, but the standards for saying someone could be a terrorist are extremely lax. So people come here to seek asylum and are unceremoniously dumped into prison, and just sit. And sit. And sit. And it’s not okay.

    • My grandfather was detained at the border for looking like a terrorist. He was in detained for four months with middle eastern men that were trying to figure out why they locked him up with them. The government went from saying he was detained for suspicious activity to trying to cross illegally. He became a US citizen legally a long time ago. They took forever processing his documents. We still don’t know why they detained him. My friends also have family members that are detained for long periods of time. It’s very sad.

  2. See I feel like a chump because I watched C-span all night rooting for the Dems without realizing the vote they wanted was on a no-guns-for-terrorist-watchlist people. I thought they were calling for a vote on as-yet-unspecified gun control legislation.

    I don’t think ANYONE should be able to buy most guns. But I worry that adding further restrictions to citizens’ rights when they happen to be on the No Fly list, or on a terrorist watchlist (are they the same thing? God I am failing at life, Rachel how do you track all of this) will just be one more way the government is able to profile people and steal their rights without due process.

    If you’re going to take our guns, take them across the board, or take them based on actual reasonable suspicion.

    • And no, I don’t know why I was thinking they would call for a vote on unspecified legislation. It’s been a long couple of weeks.

    • Don’t feel bad. You’re not the only one. Of course I wasn’t rooting for them in the first place because how many thousands have died in the last decade alone without them taking action?

    • I think it’s dangerous to impose restrictions on individuals when there is no telling if you are on a list or not. How do they put you on these lists and if they have the power to watch you while on a terror watch lists, why can’t they also stop bad stuff from happening? It would be easier to stop the sell of certain type of weapons and ammunition. Automatic and semiautomatic firearms should be the first to go. Regular handguns and firearms used for hunting should be left alone for now. If you want to take it further, don’t let people buy hollow tip or armor piercing rounds and limit the power behind the ammunition. All of the stuff banned would just be used for the military or police. Idk. I’m not sure how effective it would be. After all we live in a world where you can print a gun and prisoners can make their own homemade guns that actually work. ?

  3. Meanwhile in the UK….. we broke it. All of it. I don’t think we can fix it.

    Biggest shift in extreme right wing politics in my lifetime…. I’m very scared at what the future holds.

    • As a French immigrant living and working in the UK, this morning kinda feels like the UK broke up with me :(

      • Hugs to you all. I just emailed a dear English friend who works for an NGO in Brussels, she replied “I feel like I’ve lost my nationality.”

        There has to be some provision put in place for EU workers already in the UK though, right? I mean, the country couldn’t actually function without them and a lot in the service sector probably don’t meet the recent income requirements for a work visa…. UGGGGH EFFF YOU 2016.

        • And yes I think there will be some kind of provision, nothing has actually been put into place officially yet. It’s meant to be a 2 year transitionary period but they predict it will take 10 and it will be up to the EU as to whether they will grant us an extension to separate and negotiate… ironic really.

          There will need to be provision for UK citizens working in EU countries also… it’s such a shameful mess!

      • Not all of us :'(

        Although I feel like I just got kicked out of my house, and then hey bulldozed my street, gave me a tent and said trust me it will be worth it in 10 years…. not sure I’ll make it 10 years :(

    • I’ve been trying to console myself with the thought that a UK that voted to remain exists, it’s just been uploaded to an artificial super-intelligence.

      Unfortunately, back in reality we’re still fucked.

      • No, you’re not.

        UK has jumped from a plane (EU) that is on fire. Whether the pilots will manage to deal with the fire and land the plane before it explodes, it remains to be seen.

        Best wishes for UK from Eastern Europe and good luck! You’re gonna be fine.

        • Gosh I’m not sure I have your faith. I really hope I’m wrong and this is the right decision however I just can’t see how. Maybe in time I will but it will be actions that have to prove it now :'(

          I just really hope we have a Left wing party in power in 2 years at the next election as I fear a Thatcher-esque situation if the Torys are establishing our Trade agreements new policies etc.

Comments are closed.