Listen to this article Tennessee Democrats Expelled After Gun Control Protest At Statehouse
Last week, the Tennessee statehouse expelled two Democratic lawmakers, Justin Jones and Justin Pearson, both Democrats, who led a gun control protest that caused the legislative proceedings to halt. In an unprecedented move, the Republican-controlled House of Representatives voted 72-25 to expel Justin Jones and 69-26 to remove Justin Pearson. Despite efforts by Tennessee Democrats to expel a third Democratic lawmaker, Gloria Johnson, the vote failed. Republicans accused the trio of bringing “disorder and dishonor to the House.”
Since a school shooting at Nashville’s Covenant School on March 27th, crowds of protesters have attended the State Capitol. The attack resulted in the death of six people, including three children. On March 30th, the “Tennessee Three” took to the House floor, chanting “no action, no peace” during a protest. Hundreds of pro-gun control demonstrators also converged on the statehouse.
During the protest, Mr. Jones, 27, and Mr. Pearson, 28, used a megaphone and banged on the House lectern as they made rousing speeches and addressed the protesters who crowded around the chamber’s public viewing platform. They chanted “enough is enough” and “power to the people.” Ms. Johnson may have been spared expulsion because she did not use a megaphone.
The chamber’s proceedings were brought to a standstill for nearly an hour. Republicans said that the Democrats’ actions amounted to an insurrection, with House Speaker Cameron Sexton comparing the incident to the Capitol Riots. Another Republican legislator, Gino Bulso, said they had “effectively conducted a mutiny.”
Expulsion is a rare move. In Tennessee, the House of Representatives has only twice voted to expel members. In 1980, a sitting lawmaker was removed for soliciting a bribe, and in 2016, a majority whip was expelled for facing allegations of sexual misconduct. However, those expulsions had strong support from both parties. Expulsion does not disqualify a former representative from running for office again. A county council also has the power to appoint an interim representative in the case of a vacancy.
Response to Expulsion
US President Joe Biden criticized the expulsions as “shocking, undemocratic, and without precedent.” Mr. Jones told BBC News that the move had left 78,000 people in one of the state’s most diverse districts without representation. He said an “extreme Republican supermajority, almost entirely a white caucus” had expelled the “two youngest black lawmakers because we stood demanding action on gun violence.” Tennessee’s House of Representatives consists of 75 Republicans and 23 Democrats.
Gun Control Laws in Tennessee
Tennessee has some of the most relaxed gun control laws in the country. In 2021, the state passed a measure that allows residents over the age of 21 to carry handguns – concealed and unconcealed – without a permit. Lawmakers and gun rights groups are working to lower that age to 18. There is no system of universal background checks and no “red flag” laws, which are designed to allow authorities to temporarily seize legally owned guns from those found to be a danger to themselves or others. Police said the Nashville shooter had legally purchased seven firearms on separate occasions.
In conclusion, the Tennessee statehouse’s expulsion of three Democratic lawmakers has sparked a debate regarding the extent of protest and free speech in government institutions. The gun control protest, which ultimately led to the lawmakers’ expulsion, emerged as a response to a recent school shooting in Nashville, which resulted in the deaths of six individuals, including three children. Justin Jones and Justin Pearson, among other protesters, demanded action regarding gun violence and disrupted the legislative proceedings for nearly an hour.Read more: Tennessee Democrats Expelled After Gun Control Protest At Statehouse