President Joe Biden called out Tennessee Republicans’ move to “punish” and “silence” Democratic lawmakers Thursday after the state’s GOP-led House expelled two Democrats who had participated in a protest on gun control.
Tennessee state Reps. Gloria Johnson, Justin Jones and Justin Pearson led chants on the House floor on March 30 as protesters gathered at the state Capitol in Nashville to call for gun control legislation. The demonstration followed the deaths of three children and three adults in a mass shooting last month at a Nashville school. Johnson, Jones and Pearson were then admonished in the House for failing to be recognized to speak.
State Republicans began the expulsion process on Monday over the act, a violation of chamber rules, prior to expelling Jones and Pearson – who are both Black – but not Johnson – who is white.
“Today’s expulsion of lawmakers who engaged in peaceful protest is shocking, undemocratic, and without precedent,” Biden said in his statement.
“Rather than debating the merits of the issue, these Republican lawmakers have chosen to punish, silence, and expel duly-elected representatives of the people of Tennessee.“
The president added that a majority of Americans “want lawmakers to act on commonsense gun safety reforms,” reflecting a growing unease among Americans who are increasingly dissatisfied with inadequate gun laws, according to a recently released Gallup poll.
“But instead, we’ve continued to see Republican officials across America double down on dangerous bills that make our schools, places of worship, and communities less safe. Our kids continue to pay the price,” Biden said.
The president’s remarks come as he continues his calls for a federal assault weapon ban.
Biden helped pass a ban on assault weapons in 1994 as a senator, but that law expired in 2004 and has yet to be renewed by Congress.
Over 11,100 people have died as a result of gun violence and there have been 141 mass shootings (an event where at least four people are shot or killed) in the U.S. this year, as of Friday, according to data from Gun Violence Archive.
The president also pushed for an assault weapons ban earlier this year following two mass shootings that left 18 people dead and 10 injured in California.