Three Tennessee House of Representatives Democrats Faced Expulsion Following Calls for Gun Control; Expel One

A debate in Tennessee’s House of Representatives regarding the expulsion of three Democrat lawmakers for participating in gun control demonstrations last week resulted in one representative being expelled.

The GOP accused the trio of Democrats of disrupting the House after they led protests on the chamber floor. In a 72-25 vote, Rep. Justin Jones was banished.

The vote — a rare and dramatic measure — comes a week after a Nashville school shooting left six dead, including three children, that inspired the protests at the statehouse.

It followed a fractious day in the GOP-controlled chamber. For hours before the vote, members of both parties traded jabs as they debated the proposed legislation. The three representatives facing expulsion — Justin Jones, Justin Pearson, and Gloria Johnson — entered the House chamber holding hands and with raised fists.

Outside, protestors, including parents and young students, crowded the statehouse halls, where they had been gathered for days, calling for stricter gun laws.

“We protect the Tennessee Three!” they yelled about the Democrats. “Justin! Justin! Gloria!.”

The six people killed in the March 27 shooting included three adults and three children at Tennessee’s Covenant School.

Days after, on March 30, Johnson, Jones, and Pearson disrupted House proceedings to join protesters assembled at the statehouse.

Amid the protest, Jones held a sign that read “Protect kids, not guns,” and led protest chants shouting “no action, no peace” in a megaphone. Altogether, the three Dems represent around 200,000 Tennessee constituents.

Reps stripped of committee assignments in protest aftermath

In the aftermath of the protests, Jones and Johnson were stripped of their committee assignments by GOP leadership. Pearson was not serving on any committees.

The Tennessee House of Representatives debated a resolution filed by Republican leadership to remove the three Dems from their state legislature seats for “disorderly behavior.”

Expulsion votes are rare. Since the Civil War, the Tennessee House of Representatives has only voted twice to expel a member — one was for a majority whip who faced allegations of sexual misconduct, and another was for a lawmaker convicted of soliciting a bribe.

The American Civil Liberties Union’s (ACLU) Tennessee branch has criticized the move as an “extreme measure.”

“Trying to expel three lawmakers without due process for amplifying the voices of their constituents in a peaceful, non-violent manner undermines democracy,” said the executive director of Tennessee’s ACLU, Kathy Sinback, in a statement prior to the vote.

Johnson said an expulsion vote could have a “chilling effect” on other states beyond Tennessee.

“This is chipping away at our democracy, there’s no question because everybody’s going to wonder, ‘Am I next?’” said Johnson.

Before the vote, Cameron Sexton, GOP House Speaker, said he would vote in favor of the expulsion and argued the move isn’t about the right to protest but about maintaining order in the legislature.

“Their actions are will always be unacceptable, and they break several rules of decorum and procedure on the House floor,” Sexton wrote on Twitter.

“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,” he said.

Two-thirds of the House needed to vote in favor of expulsion for it to pass.