The Tennessee Three

Danielle Kanter, Prospect Staff Writer

Last week, the Tennessee legislature voted to expel three state legislatures, who have become known as the ‘Tennessee Three.’ Two were black men and the third was a white woman. Tennessee’s Republican supermajority voted overwhelmingly to expel the two Black men, but the white woman was saved by a singular vote. A vote infused with racism.

The reason for the vote on expulsion? Standing up for their constituents and their own values. 

On March 27th, a shooter came and massacred six people at an elementary school in Tennessee: three children and three adults. In response, the Tennessee legislature attempted to expand gun rights in their state, putting guns into schools.

There is evidence that stricter gun laws lead to fewer murders. America has more guns than people, and has the highest rate of gun violence in the world, and for a first world country. In the first 100 days of 2023, there were over 149 mass shootings, with thousands more killed, without making the headlines, through domestic violence incidents and community gun violence. 

America also has among the loosest gun laws among its peer countries.

And Tennessee’s students and parents know this. Many walked out of school protesting the Tennessee legislature to enact popular common sense gun reform, like universal background checks and red flag laws, that would make it harder for a person with a mental illness, or one who is a danger to themselves and those around them, to get a gun. 

These protestors were ignored by Republicans who, later, tried to get them to leave. The ‘Tennessee Three’ talked to the students, comforted the mourning parents, and embraced the movement. 

As these students continued to be ignored, the ‘Tennessee Three’ moved the movement from the halls of the State Capital to the floor of the house so the Republicans could not continue to ignore the will of the people whom they represent. 

Fighting to protect the lives of children and neighbors by enacting smart gun reform was met with contempt and a charge of breaking  a house rule; that they broke ‘decorum.’

In the eyes of Tennessee Republicans, ‘decorum’ matters more than saving lives. But these Republicans have not voted to expel their own party members; one who has been accused of sexually assaulting teenage girls, or the speaker, who does not even live in the district he represents; completely against state law. 

This legislature is exposing their fundamental beliefs: racism and the silencing of dissent. Trying to do this, the legislature inadvertently created martyrs of these movements, while bringing national attention to  their lack of action.