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Tennessee Republicans expelled a Democratic legislator who protested with anti-gun activists in the House

Tennessee State Representative Justin Jones, standing with Rep. Justin Pearson and Rep. Gloria Johnson, calls on his colleagues to pass gun control legislation from the well of the House Chambers during the legislative sessionTennessee State Representative Justin Jones, standing with Rep. Justin Pearson and Rep. Gloria Johnson, calls on his colleagues to pass gun control legislation from the well of the House Chambers during the legislative session

George Walker IV/USA Today Network via Reuters

  • Republicans in the Tennessee legislature just expelled a member for leading a gun reform protest in the House of Chambers.
  • The Tennessee House of Representatives voted 75-25 on Thursday to expel state Rep. Justin Jones.
  • Jones was one of three Democrats in the state House who participated in the protest following an elementary school shooting.

A week after he participated in a protest in the Tennessee House of Representatives, GOP state representatives voted to expel state Rep. Justin Jones.

The Tennessee House voted 75-25 on Thursday to expel Jones. He’s one of three Democrats in the Tennessee House of Representatives who led a disruptive protest with a megaphone on March 30 to call for gun law reform after a shooter killed six people at a private elementary school in Nashville just days prior. 

At the protest last Thursday, Jones, alongside Democratic state Reps. Justin Pearson and Gloria Johnson, walked towards the floor’s podium between bill debates, shouting without having permission to address the chamber, which is not allowed under the rules of the legislature.

Protestors flanked the chamber’s galleries and chanted for gun reform, along with the three lawmakers, and a recess was called within minutes. After the action, Republican House leadership in the legislature introduced three nearly identical motions to expel the representatives.

On Thursday, the motion to expel Rep. Johnson failed with the vote tally reaching 65-30.

“I want to stop the guns before they ever get to the schoolhouse doors,” Johnson told Insider last Thursday, after the protest. “Not ready for a war when they get there. Let’s keep them from ever getting there. We can do that.”

Tennessee House Speaker Cameron Sexton said on Monday that the actions committed by the Democrats in the House of Chambers “are and always will be unacceptable.” Following the raucous protest last week, he compared the three Democrats to insurrectionists who violently attempted to stop the certification of the 2020 election results and chanted about killing the likes of former Vice President Mike Pence and then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

“What they did today was equivalent, at least equivalent, maybe worse depending on how you look at it, to doing an insurrection in the State Capitol,” Sexton said.

Expelling someone from the Tennessee House of Representatives is a rare occurrence and requires two-thirds of members to vote in favor to expel someone. Republicans in the state control the House by a large margin — of the 99 seats in the Tennessee House, 75 are held by Republicans, 23 by Democrats, and one is vacant.

Only two members of the Tennessee House have been expelled over the last 157 years. One, according to CNN, was in 1980 after the body found the representative guilty of accepting a bribe. The second was in 2016 over sexual harassment allegations. 

Jones noted the rarity of his expulsion in a speech in the Tennessee House of Chambers on Thursday, pointing out that former domestic abusers and an “admitted child molester” harmoniously worked in space without an expulsion. 

—philip lewis (@Phil_Lewis_) April 6, 2023

Until Jones’ seat is filled in a special election, his county commission can appoint an interim lawmaker. This can also be, according to NPR, the expelled member. Jones could also return to his former seat after running for office again. 

President Joe Biden addressed the Tennessee House leadership’s focus on expelling the three, calling the move, “undemocratic.”

“Three kids and three officials gunned down in yet another mass shooting. And what are GOP officials focused on?” Biden tweeted on Thursday. “Punishing lawmakers who joined thousands of peaceful protesters calling for action. It’s shocking, undemocratic, and without precedent.”

Read the original article on Business Insider
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