'Tennessee Three' member Rep. Gloria Johnson vows to keep gun reform fight going
BETHESDA, Md. (FOX 5 DC) - One of the Tennessee state lawmakers at the center of controversy, amid calls for new gun laws, says she has no plans to give up her fight — even if it nearly cost her a seat in the state House.
Democrat Gloria Johnson, who represents a Knoxville-area district, narrowly avoided expulsion by the Republican majority after she took part in a protest on the House floor after the shooting at the Covenant School in Nashville on March 27, in which six people died, including three children.
Two of her fellow Democrats, Representatives Justin Jones and Justin Pearson, were both expelled, but were reinstated after local county commissions charged with replacing them instead opted to send them back to Nashville.
In an interview with FOX 5’s Jim Lokay on "The Final 5," the former teacher said news of the shooting reminded her of another deadly incident at a school where she once taught.
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"I was actually sitting in committee when I heard a friend from the caucus was texting me. And it's just, it's devastating, you know? And as a teacher, an educator who's been present, when there was a school shooting in our school, you just go back to remembering that day, remembering the faces of terror on the kids that were sheltering in my classroom," Johnson said. "It's traumatic for everyone."
NASHVILLE, TN - APRIL 06: Democratic state Reps. Gloria Johnson of Knoxville and Justin Jones of Nashville raise their arms in defiance after a vote that expelled Jones from the governing body on April 6, 2023 in Nashville, Tennessee. Jones was expel
Johnson said she favors so-called "red flag" laws to prevent people, like the shooter, from legally obtaining weapons if there’s a clear risk. Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee, a Republican, came out in favor of tightening background checks and red flag laws in the aftermath of the shooting.
She doesn’t believe the state legislature will follow through.
"He's asked the legislature to pass a Red Flag Law," Johnson explained. "So my concern there, of course, is that the legislature doesn't have the will to do it. And I hope they do. I'm willing to work across the aisle to do anything to pass something that's gonna make our community safer. But I'm just not sure that the body has the will."
While the partisan wrangling between the so-called "Tennessee Three" and state Republicans has received national attention, the shooting at Covenant becomes yet another statistic. According to Education Week, it was the 13th shooting at a school involving injuries or deaths in 2023.
NASHVILLE, TN - APRIL 06: Democratic state Reps. Gloria Johnson (L) and Justin Jones embrace after a vote that expelled Jones from the governing body on April 6, 2023 in Nashville, Tennessee. Jones was expelled after he, Johnson and Rep. Justin Pears
FOX 5 asked the Tennessee Representative if she's concerned that all of this has overshadowed the lives lost that day at Covenant School.
"No, I don't think so at all," she replied. "As a matter of fact, the folks from Covenant have thanked us many, many times. And we are making this, you know, every time that we go in the media, when we go talk to groups, we're talking about ending gun violence. We are lifting this issue."