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Tennessee’s House Expelling Democrats Over Guns Protest – What You Need to Know

by Ethan Kim
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The Republicans in the Tennessee Legislature have punished two Democratic lawmakers for taking part in a demonstration to ask for more gun control restrictions following a tragic school shooting in Nashville. The third Democrat was luckily only given a warning because they just barely got away with one vote.

Some people accused that the Republicans’ vote of kicking out two Black Representatives, Justin Jones and Justin Pearson, while white Representative Gloria Johnson stayed in office was because of racism. However, the Republican party denied it.

When the final vote happened, there were suddenly loud screams and boos coming from the visitors’ gallery. People were so angry that they started chanting things like “Shame!” and “Fascists!”

Since the Civil War, most state legislatures have had the power to kick out their members but usually only do this if they are accused of something bad. Thursday, the GOP leaders said it was necessary to punish those who were causing trouble by protesting in the House. This means that lawmakers won’t be allowed to get away with disrupting House procedures from now on.

Republican Rep. Gino Bulso called three Democrats “mutineers”. At a rally that night, Jones and Pearson promised to come back to the Capitol next week for the cause. Jones said instead of passing laws which would prevent red flags, restricting assault weapons and making universal background checks mandatory, laws about banning their colleagues were passed. The two promised them: We’ll be back on Monday!

Last week, Jones, Pearson and Johnson took part in a protest at the Capitol. Hundreds of people were there demanding laws that control guns. All the protesters gathered in the House chamber while Jones, Pearson and Johnson got a bullhorn and shouted slogans. This happened just after an incident at Covenant School where 6 people died, including 3 children.

Pearson said that the three of them had done something wrong by protesting as it was against House Rules, but they did it in order to save kids who are sufferening from gun violence and try to stop guns being used in their area.

Johnson, an ex-teacher, shared a personal experience where students ran away from her when someone had just been shot and killed In 2008.

On Thursday, thousands of people went to the Capitol to show support for three people: Jones, Pearson and Johnson. They were all holding hands as they entered the House chamber and cheered loudly when Pearson gave a fist in the Pledge of Allegiance. Jones said that after he was shot, the GOP took it as an opportunity to attack him instead of helping. Someone said that seeing their faces made them never forget what they saw.

Jones said that even though they asked people to ban assault weapons, they are attacking democracy instead. He promised that he will continue demanding something to be done about guns, even if he gets kicked out. Bulso accused Jones of being disrespectful and unapologetic about it.

According to Bulso, the person they were referring to did something wrong, but didn’t think it was. Because of this, expelling them would show others that this behavior is unacceptable.

The two people who got kicked out may not stay away for long though. Commissioners from their districts can pick new people to take up the job until there’s a special election and those same two people even get to run in it!

The Tennessee Constitution does not allow lawmakers to get kicked out twice for the same thing.

Republican Rep. Sabi Kumar gave some advice to Mr. Jones, saying he should make friends and be nice when talking about his ideas instead of just focusing on race.

Mr. Jones said that he didn’t want to try and fit in or be liked by others, since he was there to help his community rather than make friends.

Johnson told the lawmakers that she did not yell or use a loudspeaker like Jones and Pearson, who are both new representatives. She believed that race could have been an issue in why Jones and Pearson were kicked out but not her – Johnson said it was possibly because of their skin color. Senator London Lamar from Memphis agreed with this idea too.

Lamar, a Black woman, said on Twitter that the lawmakers had kicked out two Black men but let the white woman stay. Lamar was shocked and said it showed how much racism there is.

House Speaker Cameron Sexton, who is a Republican and voted to kick all three people out, said he didn’t think race played a part in it and thought Johnson’s words had changed other people’s minds.

Majority Leader William Lamberth said that the members of their group didn’t pay attention to the race of the people they were going to throw out. Three people– Jones, Pearson, and Johnson– had caused trouble last week and President Joe Biden said it was wrong because it had never happened before.

President Biden said that instead of discussing the good and bad of the gun control issue, Republican lawmakers have decided to take action against representatives who were voted for by the people of Tennessee. They are punishing, censoring and getting rid of these elected officials.

There was a vote to decide if some people have to leave. Before that, the House talked about over 20 different laws with one being about school safety. This law said that all schools need to tell the state how they keep their buildings safe but nothing about guns. Some Democrats think this is not enough and does not get rid of the problem causing school shootings. Previous times for these votes were much different compared to now.

In 2019, some people wanted the lawmakers to get rid of former Republican Rep. David Byrd because he was accused of sexual misconduct that happened thirty years ago when he was a high school basketball coach. The Republicans didn’t accept it though, saying that he was still elected even with the accusations against him. Last year, Byrd retired. Then, the state Senate kicked out Katrina Robinson (Democrat) who was found guilty of spending around $3,400 in federal grant money on wedding stuff instead of what she had to spend it on – like her nursing school fees and other expenses related to this.

Four years ago, the members of the House voted 70-2 to remove a Republican Representative named Jeremy Durham because he had inappropriate contact with 22 women during his time in office.

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