Democrats in the US House of Representatives on Thursday ended a day-long sit-in at the chamber to protest against the lack of action on gun control measures, Representative Steny Hoyer said.

Democratic members had taken over the House on Wednesday, sitting on the floor while chanting and singing, and stayed all night to push for gun control legislation after the massacre at a gay nightclub in Orlando, even though Republicans adjourned the House and went home for a holiday break.

Hoyer, the number two Democrat in the House, told Reuters news agency politicians would now go back to their home districts to try to build support for legislation.

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Dramatic tactics by legislators are rare in the US Capitol and the protest underlined how sensitive the gun control issue has become after the June 12 massacre in which a US-born gunman killed 49 people.

The House Democrats were seeking votes on legislation to expand background checks for gun purchases, as well as measures to curb the sale of weapons to people on government watch lists.

Republican Speaker Paul Ryan, who dismissed the protest as a "publicity stunt", refused to allow votes on two bills demanded by Democrats: one expanding background checks to include sales at gun shows and on the internet, and another that prevents people on the government's no-fly list or FBI watchlists from buying a gun.

Congress has not passed major gun control legislation since 1994, with gun rights defenders saying such measures infringe the constitutional right to bear arms.

Source: Reuters