(WASHINGTON) — The “Tennessee three” are going to the White House on Monday to meet with President Joe Biden weeks after facing historic expulsion efforts that sparked national outrage.
Biden personally extended the invitation to Democratic state Reps. Justin Jones, Justin Pearson and Gloria Johnson, thanking them for their leadership in leading a gun reform protest that resulted in the expulsion of Jones and Pearson and near-ouster of Johnson, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said.
“What you’ll see is the president sitting down with these three legislators, having a conversation on how to move forward with commonsense gun reform; how to move forward on protecting our communities, our kids, our churches,” she told reporters on Friday.
Other administration officials have previously demonstrated support for the trio. Vice President Kamala Harris traveled to Nashville to meet the three lawmakers earlier this month, echoing their calls for reform.
“They understood the importance, these three, of standing to say that people will not be silenced; to say that a democracy hears the cries, hears the pleas, who hears the demands of its people who say that children should be able to live and be safe and go to school and not be in fear,” Harris said.
Thousands of people demonstrated at the Tennessee Capitol in the wake of a school shooting in Nashville on March 27 that left three children and three staff members dead. Jones, Pearson and Johnson faced expulsion votes after they led a gun reform protest in the state Capitol that most lawmakers found breached the chamber’s rules of decorum.
Johnson, who is white, was the only one to survive her expulsion vote. Jones and Pearson, both Black, were ousted and later reinstated by local councils. All were accused of “bringing disorder and dishonor” to the state legislature for their protest.
Jones, Justin and Johnson told GMA 3 similarly said they were simply listening to the people when they joined calls to address gun violence.
“This was a tragedy that happened at the Covenant School in Nashville, but instead of addressing the tragedy the Republican supermajority in Tennessee decided that our using our First Amendment right to listen to the thousands of protesters deserved expulsion,” Pearson said.
Tennessee’s state legislature adjourned Friday without any action on gun reform, but Republican Gov. Bill Lee announced he will call a special session so lawmakers can return to the capitol and discuss the issue. Lee has proposed an “order of protection” law aimed at taking firearms away from those deemed a risk to those around them.
“There is broad agreement that dangerous, unstable individuals who intend to harm themselves or others should not have access to weapons,” Lee said in a statement. “We also share a strong commitment to preserving Second Amendment rights, ensuring due process and addressing the heart of the problem with strengthened mental health resources.”
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