NASHVILLE – Nashville lawmakers are under pressure to tighten gun laws after last week’s deadly school shooting Shooting in the capital of Tennessee. Protesters A week ago the state house chamber was full And, at one point, Democratic lawmakers used a bullhorn to lead chants of “power to the people” from the floor of the House.
On Thursday, the three Democrats faced with an unprecedented turnout A Republican supermajority in control of state legislatures can remove them from office. Republican leadership accused Reps. Gloria Johnson, Justin Jones and Justin Pearson of breaking House rules on conduct and decorum.
Democrats see it as brazen retaliation and an extreme application of the rules of conduct using the expulsion process normally reserved for criminal activity.
The White House even weighed in Wednesday, with press secretary Karin Jean-Pierre accusing Republican lawmakers of focusing on reprimanding Democrats for protesting instead of finding ways to prevent more school shootings.
“What did Republican lawmakers do? They’re trying to expel these three Democratic legislators who joined the protest,” Jean-Pierre said, accusing Tennessee Republicans of “reeling in the face of another tragic school shooting while our kids go on. Pay the price.”
The tension around the Tennessee State Capitol was already palpable Thursday morning ahead of the vote.
Forced expulsion of legislators from a state legislature is extremely rare in the United States. Only two other members have been booted from the Tennessee Chamber since the Civil War.
“It’s outrageous,” Rep. Johnson, one of the three facing retaliation, told CBS News, adding that if he and two of his colleagues were expelled it would “send a terrible message to me that we’re losing democracy.”
“I think it’s morally insane,” his colleague, Rep. Jones, told CBS News on Wednesday. “My colleagues on the other side of the aisle, their first step is to join the thousands of Tennesseans who are demanding common sense gun laws by ousting their colleagues. We called for an assault weapons ban, and my colleagues responded instead. Attacking our democracy and The people took the unprecedented step of expelling us for standing up and speaking out and demanding that our House act on gun legislation while they cut off our mics and refused to allow us to speak on the issue on the House floor.”
“We believe this is going to set a very dangerous precedent,” Jones said. “Never in the history of Tennessee has the voice of the opposition been completely ostracized on a partisan basis. This is a very scary time, and it’s going to have ramifications nationwide.”
Three 9-year-old students and three adults were killed in the Nashville shooting. It sparked a debate over gun laws in Tennessee that sent shockwaves across the country. On Wednesday, thousands of students walked out of schools upset by gun violence they said didn’t feel safe.
“It really makes you worry if you’re going to be next,” said Alex Morley, who joined the student walkout in Framingham, Massachusetts.
The Nashville community was still mourning the six lives lost when Covenant School was attacked by a former student armed with three legally purchased firearms.
Among the dead was the woman who ran the school, named Kathryn Kunze.
“She was incredibly strong,” her close friend Anna Caudill told CBS News.
Police said Coons jumped into action, trying to stop the shooter.
“There was a confrontation, I’m sure,” said Nashville Police Chief John Drake. “You could tell by the way he lay in the hallway.”
“His priority was to (protect) everybody — everybody in danger at that moment, without reservation,” Caudill said.