Blog friend Jeff made a comment on my post about the recent school shooting here, making reference to the Tennessee legislature expelling "members who protested."
He is correct, but some context is in order.
After the tragic shooting at Covenant School, the typical pleas for reasonable gun legislation began. I joined in, as I don't see how in the world laws that attempt to keep guns out of the hands of those who should not have them ("red flag laws") and enhanced background checks do anything to infringe upon the rights of responsible gunowners.
But there has been very little room for debate here in Tennessee and, in fact, we seem to have gone in the opposite direction. The most recent gun laws allow for "permitless carry."
But with this shooting happening right under our collective nose, the tide might be shifting a bit.
Our governor, a staunch conservative Republican, signed an executive order that beefs up background checks, and he has issued a plea to legislators to pass red flag laws. This is shocking, to say the least, as he knows the opposition he is going to receive (and it has already started).
But back to the legislators who were expelled.
Three Democratic state representatives staged a protest on the floor of the House of Representatives about their colleagues' unwillingness to consider gun legislation. One of them used a bullhorn. They locked arms and chanted.
This was in clear violation of House rules. There is no question they were out of line. Caught up in the emotion of the moment, however, and with support from protesters surrounding the Capitol building, they decided rules be damned.
Their GOP brethren were quick to act. Rather than censuring them, which would have made sense, they moved to expel them. And they did, in fact, expel two of the three. The circus-like proceedings were much more of a spectacle than the protest had been.
Have you ever heard the term "bite off your nose to spite your face?"
That is exactly what happened. Within one week, local government bodies (one in Memphis and one in Nashville) responsible for appointing replacements for vacant house seats reappointed the very members who were expelled! They have already been re-sworn in!
So, what the GOP legislators accomplished was giving these two expelled lawmakers a platform to advertise their perceived mistreatment. There has been nationwide news coverage.
It happened that the two members who were expelled are Black, and the one who was up for expulsion, but was not voted out, is white. So, of course, the optics are terrible.
As I said, the three who conducted the protest on the House floor were out of line. Rules are in place for a reason, and they should have to follow those rules. There should have been consequences, but expulsion? Are you kidding me?
And, of course, we're back at square one, with nobody listening to each other.