Tennessee state Rep. Justin Jones (D) declared that Americans “don’t have to live this way” and slammed “asinine” Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis on Saturday following a deadly Jacksonville, Florida, shooting that a local sheriff described as a “racially motivated” attack.
Jones is one of two Black members of the Tennessee state House whom Republicans voted to expel in April after they joined protesters calling for stronger gun control from the House floor. He made the comments after a white man shot and killed three Black people at a Dollar General store in a predominantly Black neighborhood of Jacksonville on Saturday before killing himself.
“To see three precious Black lives taken in a state where you have an asinine governor attacking Black people, attacking Black history and then you have people making excuses saying it’s not a gun issue when he had an AR-15. I mean, other nations have hate but we’re the only nation that keeps having mass shootings because of policy decisions,” Jones declared to CNN’s Jim Acosta.
“And we don’t have to live this way. We don’t have to live this way anymore,” he added.
Jones’ remarks went after the GOP presidential candidate, who, as governor, has backed permitless concealed carry legislation criticized by Democrats and gun safety advocates.
The Democratic lawmaker went on to call for a country “free of this anxiety and terror and trauma.”
“Whether it’s a school in Nashville — a private school — or whether it’s a Dollar General in Jacksonville, Florida, this terrorism that we’re living under is a policy choice we made to appease extremists, gun extremists in the gun lobby and we need to call it out for what it is,” Jones said, referring to the March tragedy at Nashville’s Covenant School in which a shooter killed three children and three adults.
Jones — who, along with state Rep. Justin Pearson (D), recently won back his Tennessee House seat in a special election — also called on Americans to stand up to politicians in the wake of the shooting.
“I want to say to the people of America, do not accept thoughts and prayers from one of these politicians in Florida who have passed this proliferation of guns in their community,” he said. “That is unacceptable. We need to hold them accountable.”
He noted that thousands showed up during a special session called to address gun control in Tennessee this week to demand “action on commonsense gun laws” in what he called “a moral issue of right and wrong.”