GOP-Controlled Tennessee House Expels Democrats for Joining Gun Control Protests

After a seven-hour session on Thursday, Tennessee’s Republican-controlled House of Representatives voted to expel two Democrats from the House but fell short of removing a third one. A week ago, the three led a gun control protest in the chamber after a Nashville school shooting took the lives of six people, including three children.

“We called for you all to ban assault weapons and you respond with an assault on democracy,” Rep. Justin Jones said during the debate. Jones was ousted with a 72-25 vote, Rep. Justin Pearson with 69-26, while Rep. Gloria Johnson narrowly survived with 65-30. The House requires a two-thirds majority of the total seats to expel members.

House expulsions are almost unheard of. The state has only had two other instances in its history and they were in the 1860s. This exercise is typically reserved for serious misconduct. On Thursday, Tennessee’s House Republicans wielded this power in the name of political division.

Onlookers also accused the Chamber of racial discrimination — Jones and Pearson are both Black, while Johnson, who was not ousted, is white. 

Last week, the three joined as hundreds of demonstrators went to the capitol to call for gun reform following the shooting at the Covenant School in Nashville. As protesters packed themselves into the galleries, three lawmakers proceeded to approach the House floor and chanted through a bullhorn.

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The resolutions from their Republican colleagues said that the three “did knowingly and intentionally bring disorder and dishonor to the House of Representatives.” The three were also accused of disrupting the proceedings of the House Representatives.

House Republicans are describing last week’s demonstration as a “mutiny,” with Rep. Gino Bulso saying that Jones “shows no remorse. He does not even recognize that what he did was wrong. So not to expel him would simply invite him and his colleagues to engage in mutiny on the House floor.”

On Thursday, crowds of demonstrators were back in the Capitol’s galleries to show support for the three. They booed when Jones and Pearson were ousted, and cheered when Johnson was not. When Jones’ expulsion was called, the chant “shame on you” could be heard in the chamber.

President Joe Biden called the explusions “shocking, undemocratic, and without precedent.” He criticized the state’s House Republicans for punishing lawmakers instead of focusing on addressing the tragedy in Nashville.

Tennessee’s Gun Laws

Tennessee has the tenth-highest rate of gun deaths in the country, according to Every Town for Gun Safety, the largest gun violence prevention organization in the US. And the state is 29th in terms of gun law strength. It only has a few basic laws in place and lawmakers have recently removed the permit to carry requirement. This means that practically anyone can carry a loaded firearm in public, whether concealed or open, without the need for a permit or a background check.

What’s Next for Jones and Pearson

Jones and Pearson could see a return to the Republican-dominated Tennessee House. Their local governments can vote to fill the vacated seats through appointments and then a special election.

“I do hope to get re-appointed to serve in the state legislature by the Shelby County Commissioners, and a lot of them, I know, are upset about the anti-democratic behavior of this White supremacist-led state legislature,” Pearson said.

Information for this briefing was found via CBC News, CNN, and the sources and companies mentioned. The author has no securities or affiliations related to the organizations discussed. Not a recommendation to buy or sell. Always do additional research and consult a professional before purchasing a security. The author holds no licenses.

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