Tennessee Lawmakers Face Expulsion After Joining Pro-Gun Control Protest at State Capitol

Tennessee Lawmakers Face Expulsion After Joining Pro-Gun Control Protest at State Capitol
Police are seen surrounding the Tennessee State Capitol building in Nashville, Tenn., on June 4, 2020. (Jason Kempin/Getty Images)
Katabella Roberts

Three Democratic lawmakers in the Tennessee House of Representatives who took part in pro-gun control protests in the state capitol have reportedly been stripped of their committee assignments and now face being removed from the legislature.

Reps. Justin Jones (D-Nashville), Justin J. Pearson (D-Memphis), and Gloria Johnson (D-Knoxville) participated in demonstrations for tighter gun control laws in the state capitol on March 30.

The protests came just days after 28-year-old Audrey Elizabeth Hale, who police say identified as transgender, opened fire at Covenant Christian Academy in Nashville, shooting dead three children and three adults.
According to the Nashville Tennessean, the three lawmakers took to the podium on the House floor with a bullhorn in hand and cheered on the crowd of demonstrators, without being recognized to speak; marking a breach of chamber rules.

House Republicans later condemned the lawmakers’ “disorderly behavior” and House Speaker Cameron Sexton (R-Crossville) called for a 30-minute recess during Thursday’s incident, according to the publication.

Jones on April 3 posted on Twitter a photo of a letter he had received from Rep. Bud Hulsey (R-Sullivan), informing him of a resolution he and other lawmakers filed to remove the three lawmakers from their seats.
The resolution cites Article 2, section 12 of the Tennessee constitution, which states that “each House may determine the rules of its proceedings, punish its members for disorderly behavior, and, with the concurrence of two-thirds, expel a member, but not a second time for the same offense; and shall have all other powers necessary for a branch of the Legislature of a free state.”

‘Disorder and Dishonor’

The resolution goes on to state that all lawmakers must comply with the rules of the Tennessee House including “preserving order, adhering to decorum, speaking only with recognition, not crowding around the Clerk’s desk, avoiding personalities, and not using props or displaying political messages.”

It states that the three did knowingly and intentionally bring “disorder and dishonor to the House of Representatives” through their individual and collective actions over a roughly one-hour period.

Republicans voted Monday that the House expedite the process and vote on the resolutions to expel the three members on Thursday, although they will likely have a chance to defend their actions during the Senate session.

Sexton has already stripped the Democrats of their committee assignments, and Republicans voted to revoke their ID badges, restricting their access to the legislature, according to Newsweek.

“Just handed this on the House floor, but they still have to vote. We’ll not be intimidated. THE PEOPLE are demanding we act to stop kids from being murdered in school,” Jones wrote alongside the photo, using the hashtag #goodtrouble.

Johnson also shared a photo on Twitter of the resolution letter she had received from Republican lawmakers for what she said was their efforts in “fighting to protect children from gun violence.”
“A week after six people were slaughtered in a Tennessee school shooting, House Republicans are taking action. Not to stop gun violence. But to silence voices who are calling for reform. We will not be silent,” Johnson wrote in a later post.
Pearson has not publically commented on the resolution but wrote on Twitter on March 30 that he and his fellow lawmakers “took to the House floor demanding justice to end the support of the NRA, end the support of gun violence, & end support of these guns.”

Democrats’ Actions a ‘Distraction’

In a tweet on Monday, Sexton said the actions of the three Democrats “are and will always be unacceptable, and they break several rules of decorum and procedure on the House floor.”

“Their actions and beliefs that they could be arrested on the House floor were an effort, unfortunately, to make themselves the victims,” Sexton said. “In effect, those actions took away the voices of the protestors, the focus on the six victims who lost their lives, and the families who lost their loved ones.”

The Republican added that the House has “always welcomed peaceful protestors to the capitol to have their voices heard on any issue” but that it cannot “allow the actions of the three members to distract us from protecting our children. ”

In a statement on Monday after the vote, the House Democratic Caucus said it “stands firmly united” with the three lawmakers, adding that it has “unanimously, formally voted to oppose the baseless resolutions for expulsion & will zealously oppose them should they come up for a vote on the House floor.”

The Epoch Times has reached out to Sexton and the three lawmakers for further comment.

Jones was temporarily banned from the Tennessee Capitol in 2019 after throwing a cup of coffee at then-House Speaker Glen Casada (R-Williamson) and other lawmakers while protesting against the bust of Confederate Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest being inside the Capitol. At the time, Jones was working as an activist and not a Tennesse representative.

The last lawmaker to be expelled from the Tennessee State Senate was in 2022, when senators voted 27–5 to remove Sen. Katrina Robinson (D-Memphis) from office following a wire fraud conviction. Robinson denied any wrongdoing.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.