The House on Thursday voted 72-25 to expel Justin Jones (27) and 69-26 to remove Justin Pearson (28)…reports Asian Lite News
The Republican-led Tennessee House of Representatives has expelled two Democratic lawmakers, but failed to oust a third representative, a week after the three had led a gun reform protest in the wake of the Nashville school shooting.
In an extraordinary move, the House on Thursday voted 72-25 to expel Justin Jones (27) and 69-26 to remove Justin Pearson (28), the BBC reported. The two representatives are black.
But an expulsion vote failed against the third Democratic lawmaker, Gloria Johnson (60). The expulsions are the first such actions taken without the support of both parties in Tennessee’s modern history.
The crowd in the gallery erupted in boos and chants following the two expulsions and loud cheers when the vote count turned up just short against Johnson. The session lasted seven hours.
Since the mass shooting at the The Covenant School in Nashville on March 27, crowds of protesters have flooded the State Capitol. Even on Thursday before the beginning of the expulsion voting — a step the state House has taken only twice since the 1860s — began, demonstrators again gathered raising demands for gun control and reforms.
Speaking to the BBC on Thursday night, Jones said the move to expel him had left 78,000 people in one of the state’s most diverse districts without representation.
He said an “extreme Republican super majority, almost completely a white caucus” had expelled the “two youngest black lawmakers because we stood demanding action on gun violence”.
“The nation and the world are surprised and should be shocked because what they said was that democracy does not matter in Tennessee,” Jones told the BBC.
After surviving her vote, Johnson, who is white, suggested that the Republicans did not expel was because of the colour of her skin.
During the protest on March 30, the three lawmakers joined hundreds of pro-gun control demonstrators as they converged on the statehouse
The Democrats then took to the House floor, chanting: “No action, no peace.” The chamber’s proceedings were brought to a standstill for nearly an hour.
They have acknowledged they broke House rules by speaking without being formally recognised, but insisted their actions did not warrant expulsion.
Meanwhile President Joe Biden criticised Thursday proceedings and said in a tweet: “Three kids and three officials gunned down in yet another mass shooting. And what are GOP officials focused on? Punishing lawmakers who joined thousands of peaceful protesters calling for action. It’s shocking, undemocratic, and without precedent.”
The heavily-armed shooter, identified as 28-year-old Nashville resident and transgender woman Audrey Hale, attacked the school in the morning of March 31, killing six people, including three nine-year-old students, before being fatally shot by responding officers.
Tennessee has some of the most relaxed gun control laws in the country. In 2021, the state passed a measure that allows residents over the age of 21 to carry handguns — concealed and unconcealed — without a permit.
Lawmakers and gun rights groups are working to lower that age to 18. There have been 130 mass shootings in the US so far this year, according to the Gun Violence Archive, which defines a mass shooting as one in which at least four people are shot, excluding the shooter.
Meanwhile, 9,894 people, including hundreds of children and teens, have lost their lives to gun violence in the past three months.