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Tuesdays in Tennessee
Update for the week of April 4-11, 2023
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…as of 4.11.2023
As most of you should already know, as it was broadcast both nationally and internationally last week, two of the three TN3 state representatives were expelled from their seats in the Tennessee state house. The two men who were expelled were Black and the woman was white. In case the world did not know, the Republicans in the Tennessee legislature are, for the most part, racist. This goes without saying. It is insidious, yet widespread, and the one thing that is shocking is that the Republicans in the House don’t seem to mind being seen this way on a national stage. Not one of them got up in front of the cameras and defended it. They just did the racism, in front of everyone, and then went on with their day.
I shouldn’t be surprised, but then I’m also not going to leave it at “the south is still racist” and move on. This whole COUNTRY is racist and we haven’t learned any of the lessons of the past. And one of the horrible things that this racism is morphing into is a push toward pretending in public that the past was actually not racist. That there were ‘better days’ back then. But the ‘better days’ people are always white. And ‘better days’ is code for segregation.
One of the shocking, but not surprising, things from last Thursdays expulsion vote was the way in which the Republicans on the floor spoke to and/or questioned Representatives Justin Jones (Nashville) and Justin Pearson (Memphis). Their demeanor toward these two rising stars in the legislature was one of disdain. The manner in which they asked their questions was trite and condescending. They showed us who they are on the inside and didn’t seem bothered by the fact that they were being recorded. These Republicans have become numb to people calling them on their racism and that is something that needs to change. They need to be held accountable for their callousness. They need to learn empathy, equity, and congeniality. And the way to accomplish that is for their constituents to let them know, next November, that their time in the Tennessee General Assembly is done, and vote them out.
The good news
Even though Rep Jones and Rep Pearson were expelled, they have a chance to be reappointed. Yesterday, the metro council in Nashville held a special session and voted to reseat Representative Jones. He was then led from the city courthouse, back to the capitol, sworn in on the steps, and returned to the House just in time for the welcoming and honoring portion of the Monday night proceedings. Take that, Republicans! The people HAVE spoken. Tomorrow, the Memphis County Commission will vote and hopefully reappoint Representative Pearson as the District 86 Rep. If all goes well, he could be back in his seat by Thursday.
This was all just a ruse, a way to shift the focus away from what truly matters. GUN CONTROL. Plain and simple. We need gun control laws in this country more than we ever have and it gets worse every week. Yesterday, in Louisville, Kentucky, it happened again. Six people killed, including the shooter, in a mass shooting at a bank. The shooter used an AR-15 rifle.
A month from today, on 14 May 2023, will be one year since a mass shooter took the lives of 10 beautiful souls in a Buffalo, NY grocery store. In the first 100 days of 2023, there have been 132 mass shootings in the United States. We need to act. This cannot continue at this rate. We must protect our citizens.
How do we move forward?
In states across the country, gun laws are getting less and less restrictive. In Tennessee, prior to the tragedy at the Covenant School, the legislature was debating a bill to lower the age of gun purchase (permit-less mind you) from 21 to 18. Making it easier to obtain firearms is NOT the solution.
Common sense gun laws are what we need and there are some bills in committee in Tennessee, brought by Democrats, that could help turn this around.
HB1574/SB1564 - sponsored by Representative Bob Freeman and Senator Heidi Campbell “As introduced, allows a court to issue a risk protection order upon a finding by clear and convincing evidence that a person poses a significant danger of causing personal injury to the person or others if allowed to possess or purchase a firearm; authorizes a law enforcement officer or a relative to petition for the risk protection order. - Amends TCA Title 36; Title 38 and Title 39.”
HB1575/SB1568 - sponsored by Representative Bob Freeman and Senator London Lamar “As introduced, removes the authority to issue and receive concealed handgun carry permits; authorizes a person who holds a concealed handgun carry permit on June 30, 2023, to apply to convert the permit to an enhanced handgun carry permit.”
HB1576/SB1567 - sponsored by Representative Bob Freeman and Senator Raumesh Akbari “As introduced, requires, subject to certain exemptions, that a sale or transfer of a firearm be done through a federally licensed gun dealer; creates a Class B misdemeanor offense for sales or transfers that are not conducted through a gun dealer.”
HB1577/SB1566 - sponsored by Representative Vincent Dixie and Senator Charlane Oliver “As introduced, creates the Class E felony offense of purchasing, selling, possessing, or using a part, component, device, or attachment designed to accelerate the fire of a semi-automatic rifle and makes any semi-automatic rifle that includes an accelerated fire part, component, or device a prohibited weapon.”
The above bills were all filed after the Covenant School mass shooting, but the Democrats have been trying to push through legislation for years. One bill that failed, which would have been a step in the right direction (and didn’t even cause the 2nd amendment to be breached, as the Republicans so love to say about these types of bills) was SB0017/HB0380, sponsored by Senator London Lamar and Representative Bill Beck, which would have required “certain departments to create programs to reduce gun violence in communities, including a youth employment program, violence intervention program, and a gun safety program; requires the department of health to submit an annual report to the legislature and counties and municipalities on the public health impacts of gun violence in communities.”
But Republicans don’t want to even put in place mitigation strategies to combat gun violence. Even when the programs won’t restrict weapons. They are just staunchly against any legislation that seeks to protect communities and individual constituents if it has anything at all to do with firearms. They are truly not pro-life and should stop claiming to be. They are racist, sexist, bigots who only care about getting re-elected.
The good news is, truly, this kerfuffle in the Tennessee General Assembly that showed the country and world how dysfunctional a Republican super-majority can be, may have lost them enough votes to get back to the 2014 version of this body. Slowly but surely we will win back the legislature. Step by step and action by action. Building power through voter registration and get out the vote efforts. Show how to win, fair and square, to make Tennessee the best it can be.
I stand with Representatives Jones and Pearson and am happy to see such energy among the youth of Tennessee. If the same students who came out to protest this week and last, go to the polls each time there is an election, we will see that change come even faster than anyone could imagine.
In case you missed it
This also happened this week…