Tennessee Protests: Why Democrat Lawmakers Are Being Expelled And Why Students Are Walking Out

Tennessee Republicans took the first steps Monday to remove three Democratic members of the GOP-dominated House for their involvement in a recent gun control rally at the state Capitol.

Resolutions were filed against State Reps. Gloria Johnson, Justin Jones, and Justin Pearson last Thursday after they led chants from the House floor with supporters in the gallery. According to the resolution, the three had engaged in “disorderly behavior” and “knowingly and intentionally bring disorder and dishonor to the House of Representatives.”

The resolutions were introduced by Republican Reps. Bud Hulsey, Gino Bulso, and Andrew Farmer. They successfully petitioned the House on Monday to expedite the process and have a vote on the resolutions on Thursday.

The extremely rare move sparked a chaotic and fiery showdown between members and opponents of the proposal, further fracturing an already deep political schism within the Tennessee Assembly.

Despite Republican supermajority backing, their requests prompted indignation among supporters in the gallery. Their raucous jeers prompted House Speaker Cameron Sexton to demand that state troopers remove them. Many legislators also got into a fight on the House floor during the commotion. Jones later accused another member of snatching his phone and attempting to “incite a riot with his fellow members.”

Hundreds of demonstrators filled the Capitol last week, demanding that the Republican-led Statehouse approve gun control legislation in reaction to the Nashville school shooting, which killed six people.

Jones, Johnson, and Pearson reached the front of the House chamber with a bullhorn as the chanting rang throughout the Capitol. Sexton, a Republican, promptly requested a recess as the three shared the bullhorn and cheered on the crowd. He later threatened the three with repercussions.

Tennessee State Representative Justin Jones calls on his colleagues to pass gun control legislation from the well of the House Chambers during the legislative session at the State Capitol Thursday, March 30, 2023 in Nashville, Tenn. (George Walker IV /The Tennessean via AP)

By Monday, Sexton had confirmed that the three MPs’ committee assignments had been revoked, and he hinted that additional consequences were on the way. During the evening session, House Republican Caucus Chairman Jeremy Faison referred to Jones as the “former representative.”

Expelling legislators is a rare occurrence inside the Tennessee Capitol. Since the Civil War, only two other House members have been removed from the chamber.

Tennessee protests for gun reform; State lawmaker asked them which gun they’d prefer to be shot with

Protesters have swarmed Tennessee’s statehouse since last week, demanding that lawmakers tighten gun rules. More than a thousand people turned out for the protest, which was organized by local mothers, filling the rotunda and forcing highway patrol troopers to clear paths through the crowd for politicians to walk through.

Demonstrators held placards reading “No More Silence” and “We have to do better” while chanting “Do you even care?” and “No more violence!”

In a fresh demonstration, more than a thousand Nashville-area students walked out of classes to protest outside the Tennessee State Capitol on Monday. The student demonstration was organized by March for Our Lives, a youth-led campaign for stricter gun regulations created in the aftermath of the 2018 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, which murdered 17 students and faculty.

State Representative William Lamberth consented to meet with the demonstrators, but he began by asking the students which firearm they preferred to be shot with.

“If there is a firearm out there that you’re comfortable being shot with, please show me which one it is,” he asked rhetorically. “You can ban that specific gun and you are going to do almost nothing to improve y’all’s safety. I’m sorry that’s a fact.”

According to the K-12 School Shooting Database website, which was developed by researcher David Riedman, there have been 90 school shootings in the United States so far this year. Last year’s 303 instances were the most in the database’s history, which began in 1970.

In the most recent incident in Tennessee, a shooter killed three students and three staff members at Nashville’s Covenant School. The assailant, a 28-year-old former student at the school, was slain by police.

In recent years, the state has made it simpler to get firearms and has eliminated the need for licences to carry concealed pistols.

State Representative Bob Freeman, a Democrat from Nashville, addressed members in the House chambers on Thursday, pushing for “common-sense” gun reforms such as background checks and red-flag laws to prevent people from obtaining firearms who are a threat to themselves or others.

Freeman urged his colleagues that they needed to respond to activists yelling outside the chambers.

“They’re out there right now. They’re begging for us to do something,” he said.

More than a thousand people filled Nashville’s Legislative Plaza to demand gun reforms as lawmakers prepared to convene at the Tennessee State Capitol on March 3, 2023. (Marta W. Aldrich / Chalkbeat)

Gov. Bill Lee recommended an additional $155 million to install an armed security officer in every Tennessee public school, increase physical school security in both public and private schools, and provide more mental health assistance to Tennesseans.

If passed by the legislature, the governor said, the actions will immediately boost safety for kids and instructors. He vowed that more actions would be taken.

“There is a serious conversation needed about school safety,” Lee said. “It must begin with the recognition that we cannot control evil, but we can do something.”

When asked about state gun restrictions, Lee said he prefers to preserve a 2021 provision that he spearheaded that allows individuals 21 and older to carry handguns in public without a permit.

A bill in the legislature would lower the legal age to 18.

“I think the bill that I proposed and brought forward is a bill that is designed for law-abiding citizens,” the governor said.

The governor said he welcomed Monday’s protests. “You’re heard!” Lee said. “Please don’t let this be the last time you come to the Capitol.”

Information for this briefing was found via Reuters, AP, Yahoo, Chalkbeat, and the sources mentioned. The author has no securities or affiliations related to this organization. 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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