Biden meets Tennessee state lawmakers to discuss gun control

By Nandita Bose

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -President Joe Biden met three Tennessee lawmakers at the White House on Monday after they faced expulsion for participating in gun control protests at their statehouse, calling the decision to remove two of them “shocking” and “undemocratic.”

“You’re standing up for our kids, you’re standing up for our communities,” Biden told state Representatives Justin Pearson, Justin Jones and Gloria Johnson during an Oval Office meeting.

Jones and Pearson – two young Black legislators – were expelled earlier this month but were soon after returned to office by their localities in special votes. Johnson, who is white, narrowly survived an expulsion vote.

The Republicans who control the Tennessee legislature called for their expulsion because they had disrupted House proceedings, saying the three violated decorum rules by protesting on the House floor.

The three lawmakers joined children, parents and others protesting at the state Capitol days after a Nashville school shooting killed three 9-year-old children and three school staff members.

The lawmakers said they discussed with Biden red flag and safe storage laws, an assault weapons ban and strengthening background checks, among other possible gun control measures.

“There’s such incredible interest in getting something done, in action,” Johnson said.

The Tennessee lawmakers did not say what specific actions, if any, Biden discussed taking at the national level.

“We talked about how Tennessee can be a model for the nation,” Jones said. “This is not a moment it is a movement.”

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said last week that Biden appreciated the three state representatives calling for stronger gun restrictions, particularly a ban on so-called assault weapons – an issue the president has continued to push for.

Vice President Kamala Harris also attended the meeting with Biden. Harris traveled to Nashville to meet the three lawmakers earlier this month and echoed their calls for change.

(Reporting by Nandita Bose in Washington; editing by Jonathan Oatis and Bill Berkrot)