HomeNewsLocal reps react to fallout from Nashville shooting, expulsions

Local reps react to fallout from Nashville shooting, expulsions

The shooting at Covenant Christian School in Nashville in March caused a stir in Nashville that brought protesters calling for stricter gun laws at the state house.

During the protests came a string of videos posted on social media showing legislators being led by law enforcement officers and security through throngs of people armed with signs and chants calling for more laws and regulations.

Madison County’s two representatives – Chriss Todd (Republican-Madison County) and Johnny Shaw (Democrat-Bolivar) – shared their thoughts on reacting to the shooting, the expulsion of two representatives who brought the protest onto the House floor and what needs to happen now.

“The shooting was devastating to all of us because we never want to hear of anyone taking deadly action, especially against children or anyone else,” Todd said. “But it’s frustrating to see the Democratic Party highjack this terrible situation into trying to take guns from society and making this about gun control.

“This situation is about mental illness. This transgender person broke into the school and committed two felonies before she got into the school. We have ways to address that, and if the parents have exercised those methods and triggers that we already have in the law then those kids would still be alive. Maybe they didn’t know about the laws concerning that.”

Shaw’s reaction to the shooting itself was similar to that of Todd’s, but Shaw said he feels the situation that has cascaded in the reaction to the shooting could’ve been avoided if those who have the authority to do so would sit down and have a conversation about solving the problem.

“Every time we’ve had a mass shooting like this over the past few years, I’ve had a similar thought,” Shaw said. “America needs to talk. People in communities, people in the legislature – we need to sit down and get to know one another better so we can continue the conversation toward finding a solution to the problem.”

Shaw’s statement centered around the notion that people from both sides of the political aisle have their ideas about how to solve the problem, and they seem to automatically think their idea is the correct one and anyone else who has a different idea is wrong.

“We keep addressing the problem without ever finding a solution,” Shaw said. “And if we could sit down at a table and have a conversation, and I could find out why you feel the way you do and you could find out why I feel the way I do, we might be able to find a little bit of common ground and work from there to get to the solution.

“Because what’s being done now hasn’t worked yet.”

The legislators found themselves in the middle of a chaotic situation last week as protesters descended on Downtown Nashville to let the state’s lawmakers know how they felt about gun violence and gun control.

Many of the protesters were for stricter gun laws.

“The Democrats at the national level want to take our guns at every turn because that will make them feel safe,” Todd said. “But we can’t do that because if every law abiding citizen were to give the government their guns – their way of defending themselves against a tyrannical government and against those who aren’t law abiding citizens – there’s nothing about that situation that should make us feel safe.”

But people were brought in – some were from Tennessee and others weren’t according to Todd – to add volume to the protests. Three State Representatives – Justin Jones (D-Nashville), Justin Pearson (D-Memphis) and Gloria Johnson (D-Knoxville) – took part in a protest on the House floor in which Jones and Pearson held bullhorns to incite the citizens watching from the floor above into a rally that held up the business of the General Assembly for about 45 minutes.

“A lot of these protesters were bussed in, and security took some items away from them at the entrance like bear spray and MACE and knives,” Todd said. “Then when the three took over on the House floor, they halted business in the General Assembly for 45 minutes so that no one could do any work.

“They broke the rules we all agreed to abide by in this session, and those rules are in place for a reason – to protect the minority to make sure they’re not overwhelmed by the majority during a debate or discussion. That’s why the rules are in place.”

Todd said the situation was about more than simply creating chaos on the House floor and disrupting business for nearly an hour.

“And these three individuals didn’t just trample on the rules of the House but because they stopped the work of the state legislature, they trampled on the rights of everyone in that building at the time and every constituent represented in the General Assembly including my own constituents,” Todd said. “And yes, there was a safety issue because there was a time when we didn’t know what all was going to happen.

“There were women in tears fearful for their safety.”

Shaw said the entire situation could’ve been avoided with better communication among State Representatives.

“I’ve been in the state legislature for 23 years, and we have rules that we abide by,” Shaw said. “While I agree with the points the three made, I don’t agree with how they went about making it.

“But at the same time, I’m asking why these people needed to be expelled. We’ve had a state representative’s chair peed on in the past. We’ve had a state representative suggest another representative should be hung with a noose because he was passionate about gun violence. We never expelled those people, so why are we so severe about breaking the rules now? There’s a lot of dirty water that’s passed under the bridge that’s gotten us to this point now.”

Todd said Jones and Pearson were expelled and not Johnson because before last week, they’d already established a pattern of breaking the House rules.

“They’re called on to speak more than probably any other representatives, and many times when they talk, it doesn’t stay on topic because they feel the need to get their talking points across instead of staying on topic of the current discussion,” Todd said. “And they did more than Rep. Johnson did in trying to incite a riot there in the House chambers.

“Their expulsion had nothing to do with race or even their party or what they were calling for because all views get their time to be discussed during a debate. This was about their lack of ability to work within the rules.”

Jones was reappointed to the House by the Nashville Metro City Council on Monday and was sworn in on the steps of the State Capitol that afternoon with full rights and privileges of a state representative.

As of The Post’s press time, Pearson was set to go before the Shelby County Commission on Wednesday to possibly be reappointed as well.

Shaw said crowds are still present in Nashville this week, but they’re not as big and they’re staying calm and civil as lawmakers pass through them to and from the House chambers.

Brandon Shields, brandon@jacksonpost.news

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