Tennessee state Reps. Justin Jones and Justin Pearson, who were ousted from the state House amid gun protests following a school shooting, regained their seats in a special election Thursday.
The pair were two-thirds of the so-called “Tennessee Three” who, along with fellow Democrat Rep. Gloria Johnson, were accused of breaking House rules by calling for gun reform.
Johnson, who is white, survived the expulsion vote against her while Jones and Pearson, who are Black, were expelled on April 6.
On April 10 Nashville’s city council voted unanimously to reinstate Jones to his position in the state House. Two days later, the Shelby County Board of Commissioners in Memphis voted to reinstate Pearson.
However, state law required Thursday’s special election for the seats filled by Jones and Pearson.
The three lawmakers had called for gun reform on Thursday days after a school shooting at The Covenant School in Nashville where three 9-year-olds and three adults were killed.
The lawmakers’ call for stricter gun laws came as the state House was considering looser gun laws, including allowing people to carry rifles and shotguns in public without a permit, and to allow faculty or school staff members to carry a concealed handgun on school grounds with a permit.
On April 19, Gov. Bill Lee (R) said he would back legislation for a temporary order of protection law that would allow courts and law enforcement to temporarily remove firearms from people for up to 180 days if a judge finds a person poses a “current and ongoing” risk of serious harm to themselves or others.
The governor’s statement came three days after the Tennessee General Assembly killed the “red flag” law, sponsored by Democrats, without a committee hearing.
Pearson, 28, and Jones, 27, represent districts that heavily favor the Democratic Party, and each had won his primary election in June by more than 90% of the votes.
The reelection of the two Democrats will have virtually no impact on the balance of power in the Tennessee state House, however, where Republicans hold a 75-24 seat supermajority.