Tennessee lawmakers vote on whether to expel three Democrats over gun control protest | Nashville school shooting

The Republican-dominated Tennessee state house was preparing to vote on Thursday on whether to expel three Democrats for their demonstration calling for gun control following the Nashville school shooting, an extraordinary move the chamber has used only a handful of times since the civil war.

Gloria Johnson, Justin Jones and Justin Pearson are the subjects of the vote. Last week, they approached the front of the chamber floor and chanted back and forth with gun control supporters who packed the gallery days after six people, including three children, were fatally shot at the Covenant school.

Their possible expulsion has once again thrust Tennessee into the national spotlight, underscoring not only the ability of the Republican supermajority to silence opponents but also its increasing willingness to do so.

The move sends a chilling message just as lawmakers grapple with how to respond to the devastating shooting.

Before house proceedings began, thousands flocked to the state capitol, loudly chanting to show their support for the so-called “Tennessee three”.

Many traveled from Memphis and Knoxville, areas Pearson and Johnson represent, and stood in a line that wrapped around the building.

Johnson urged those in the gallery to remain calm and not shout at lawmakers, to avoid getting removed. The three Democrats held hands as they walked onto the house floor. During the pledge of allegiance, Pearson raised his fist to the crowd.

Protesters outside the chamber held up signs that said “School zones shouldn’t be war zones”; “Muskets didn’t fire 950 rounds per minute”, with a photo of George Washington; and “You can silence a gun … but not the voice of the people”.

As the House began proceedings, a Democrat, Vincent Dixie, urged that colleagues “not get distracted”. He mentioned the funeral of Mike Hill, the custodian killed at the Covenant school, which took place earlier in the week.

“I want us to keep in mind the sacrifice that he made to keep those kids safe,” Dixie said. “Each of us has power to make change.”

Justin Jones speaks in the chamber in Nashville on Thursday.Pin
Justin Jones speaks in the chamber in Nashville on Thursday. Photograph: Cheney Orr/Reuters

Before the expulsion vote, House members were set to debate more than 20 bills, including a school safety proposal requiring public and private schools to submit building safety plans to the state.

The bill did not address gun control, sparking criticisms from some Democrats that lawmakers were only addressing a symptom and not the cause of school shootings.

Expulsions in the Tennessee general assembly are rare.

In 2019, lawmakers faced pressure to expel former Republican representative David Byrd, after he faced accusations of sexual misconduct dating to when he was a high school basketball coach three decades before.

Republicans declined to take action, pointing out that he was re-elected as the allegations surfaced. Byrd retired last year.

In 2022, the state senate expelled a Democrat, Katrina Robinson, after she was convicted of using about $3,400 in federal grant money on wedding expenses instead of her nursing school.

Before that case, state lawmakers last ousted a house member in 2016, voting 70-2 to remove the Republican Jeremy Durham after an investigation detailed allegations of improper sexual contact with at least 22 women in four years in office.

If Johnson, Jones or Pearson are expelled, the county commissions in their districts would get to pick replacements to serve until special elections could be held. The three Democrats would remain eligible to run in those contests.

( Information from politico.com was used in this report. Also if you have any problem of this article or if you need to remove this articles, please email here and we will delete this immediately. [email protected] )

Share to...