President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris played host Monday at the Oval Office to the three Democratic Tennessee lawmakers who came to national attention following the mass shooting at a Nashville Christian school on March 27.
State Reps. Justin Pearson, Justin Jones and Gloria Johnson visited the White House nearly a month after the Tennessee Legislature tried to expel them after they held a loud protest on the state House floor about gun violence, approaching the front of the chamber with a bullhorn as protesters filled the gallery.
The GOP-led Legislature voted to expel Pearson and Jones, who were reinstated by local officials on an interim basis until special elections are held for each seat. Johnson narrowly survived an expulsion vote.
Three 9-year-old students and three staff members were shot and killed by Aubrey Hale at The Covenant School in Nashville. The White House billed the visit by the three lawmakers as a discussion about common-sense gun reform.
"You're standing up for kids, you're standing up for communities and you're standing up for democratic values," Biden said according to a video of their meeting. "All three of you speak so well about why you're doing what you did.
"What the Republican legislature did was shocking, un-Democratic and without any precedent."
Biden talked about the gun legislation he signed last June that included incentives for states to pass red flag laws that allow groups to petition courts to remove weapons from people deemed a threat to themselves or others, expands an existing law that prevents people convicted of domestic abuse from owning a gun to include dating partners rather than spouses and former spouses and expands background checks on people between the ages of 18 and 21 seeking to buy a gun.
But he also mentioned the federal assault weapons ban that as a senator he helped push through Congress in 1994. The law expired in 2004 and was not renewed by the Republican-led Congress at the time.
"I think we still have to do that," Biden said. "But on so many issues, you've been out front. I understand exactly what it's like. It's tragic what's happening in your state, in particular in your city but also across the country.
"Nothing is guaranteed about democracy. Every generation has to fight for it. You all are doing just that."
In an interview with CNN on Sunday, the lawmakers — nicknamed the "Tennessee Three" — said they planned to ask Biden to declare a public health emergency on gun violence.
"I think that we need an emergency response because we're facing a crisis situation … we need the help from our national leaders because we're in a state where the only action that our colleagues took in response to the mass shooting in Nashville was to expel the two youngest Black lawmakers and then to pass a law to protect gun manufacturers," Jones said.
© 2023 Newsmax. All rights reserved.