A Tennessee lawmaker who was expelled just days ago for protesting gun control on the chamber floor vows to continue calling for gun reform after being sworn back into office.
“The first thing I do when I walk into this building as a representative is to continue that call for commonsense gun legislation,” Justin Jones said after he was reinstated Monday.
The Republican-controlled legislature forced Jones out along with another Black Democrat, Justin J. Pearson, last week after a protest on the chamber floor following the mass shooting at a Nashville Christian school in March.
Democratic Rep. Gloria Johnson, a white woman, also joined the protest but avoided expulsion.
Nashville Metropolitan Council members voted 36-0 on Monday to reappoint Jones to the House of Representatives, taking over House District 52 temporarily. Until elections are held, expelled lawmakers can be replaced by interim House members appointed by local legislatures.
“Today we are sending a resounding message that democracy will not be killed in the comfort of silence,” Jones told a cheering crowd.
As a new member, Jones is now allowed to file 15 bills. He plans to work on gun reform legislation once he returns Tuesday, CNN reported Monday evening. In each case, he said, gun reform would be the focus, since “that’s what these young people are begging us to do.”
Although it is worth celebrating the return of Rep. Justin Jones to the Tennessee House of Representatives, his and Rep. Justin Pearson's expulsion is part of a long history of Black lawmakers being silenced in America because they dare to challenge the inadequacies, inequality, and inaction of the government to care for its citizens.