Tennessee lawmakers face expulsion after gun control protest

State Reps. Gloria Johnson, Justin Jones and Justin Pearson face expulsion.

April 4, 2023, 8:47 PM

Three Democratic Tennessee lawmakers are facing expulsion resolutions after Republicans said their gun control protest violated the chamber's rules of decorum -- an extraordinarily rare rebuke from state lawmakers following the Nashville school shooting.

Tennessee's GOP Reps. Bud Hulsey, Gino Bulso and Andrew Farmer sponsored resolutions Monday in an effort to remove Democratic Reps. Gloria Johnson, Justin Jones and Justin Pearson, arguing the lawmakers "did knowingly and intentionally bring disorder and dishonor to the House of Representatives through their individual and collective actions" by shouting and pounding at the podium as part of their protest against gun violence last Thursday.

Republican lawmakers including Speaker Cameron Sexton accused the trio of attempting to incite an insurrection, according to ABC affiliate WKRN.

"That's absurd, factually incorrect and wrong," Pearson told ABC News regarding the insurrection remark, calling the protest "a peaceful demonstration."

Pearson said he and his colleagues were moved to break the rules of decorum after the GOP supermajority did not acknowledge any protestors speaking for gun control, noting the members were stripped of committee assignments following the demonstration.

Johnson said that she expected retaliation for the outburst but was "in shock" by the expulsion resolutions.

"We're on the floor that night, and I started hearing that they're filing resolutions to expel us, and I was in shock because literally we broke a House rule for a total of a few minutes," Johnson said in an interview with ABC News.

Johnson, a retired Knox County school teacher, said that while she owns guns and shoots regularly, she believes gun control measures are necessary for school safety.

"As someone who worked in a classroom where we lost one of our students, you never forget the faces, the people, the children, and the traumatic experience. And we do not want that to happen to another child and another school," said Johnson.

Pearson and Johnson said that their removal would not deter further protests.

"if we are expelled on Thursday, you can expect the protest to continue the resistance to build and the advocacy for our communities and for the people that we care about," said Pearson.

"This is not going to stop me in the least," Johnson added.

ABC News reached out to Jones, Hulsey, Bulso and Farmer, but they did not return requests for comment.

The vote for the resolutions will take place Thursday. The three are expected to have an opportunity to defend themselves.

No Tennessee House member has been removed from the chamber since former Tennessee Republican Rep. Jeremy Durham's ouster in 2016. In 2022, the state Senate removed former Democratic Sen. Katrina Robinson after she was convicted of paying wedding expenses with federal grant money.

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