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Biden to host Tenn. lawmakers punished by GOP over gun protests

President Biden will meet with the three Tennessee Democratic lawmakers who survived efforts by the state’s Republican Party to oust them from office after they led a gun-control protest on the Tennessee House floor.

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said Wednesday that Biden will meet Monday with the “Tennessee Three” — Reps. Justin Jones and Justin Pearson, who were expelled from the state’s legislature by their Republican colleagues, and Gloria Johnson, who was not.

“The president’s been very clear about how important it is to take the next steps when it comes to gun reform,” Jean-Pierre told reporters. “And he saw these three legislators as taking that next step, calling for [an] assault weapons ban, which is incredibly important.”

The three lawmakers became the target of Tennessee Republicans after they joined the protests inside the legislative chamber on March 30, days after a shooting at a Christian school in Nashville killed three 9-year-old students and three adults.

On April 6, Tennessee House Republicans voted to expel Jones and Pearson from the chamber after the two shouted slogans with a bullhorn during a protest inside the Capitol.

Johnson, who did not use a bullhorn but stood during the brief protest, kept her seat as Republicans narrowly failed to marshal two-thirds of the vote against her.

Jones and Pearson’s ouster — and efforts to remove Johnson — prompted massive national outcry, as free-speech experts noted that the move was the latest attempt by Republican state leaders around the country to stifle dissent and expand their power base.

Republicans, who mostly ignored demands for stricter gun laws after the Nashville shooting, called the Democratic lawmakers’ protest an unacceptable breach of decorum. The Democrats called the protest a response to Republican failures and decried the removals as a retaliatory attack on democracy.

Jones and Pearson were reinstated to their offices last week, when local commissioners in their respective counties voted to reappoint them.

Biden, Jean-Pierre said on Wednesday, looks forward to meeting with the three in the White House, adding that he is “proud” of the stance they took in favor of gun control. The three lawmakers have met with Vice President Harris, who made a surprise visit to Tennessee this month.

Jean-Pierre said Biden has been in contact with the lawmakers since efforts to oust them first made national news and has thanked them for “peacefully protesting in support of stronger gun safety laws following the shooting.”

Although Jones and Pearson were reappointed to their offices, they will still have to run for reelection in a special election since their appointment is more than a year before the next state election in November 2024.

This post appeared first on The Washington Post

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