In Statehouses Across U.S., Varied Rules Restrict Public Voices

A protester in support of gun reform holds a sign at the Tennessee State Capitol building on the fourth day of the special session on public safety to discuss gun violence in the wake of the Covenant School shooting, in Nashville, Tennessee, Aug. 24, 2023. (Reuters/Seth Herald)

By The Associated Press

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Shaking violently between sobs, parent Sarah Shoop Neumann could only manage a whisper as state troopers escorted her out of a Tennessee legislative hearing where she was waiting to testify against a bill that would let teachers carry guns.

“I was supposed to speak. I was supposed to testify,” said Neumann, whose son still attends an elementary school where six people — including three 9-year-old children — were fatally shot this year.

Moments earlier, a Republican subcommittee chairman ordered law enforcement to clear the public out of the room after the crowd erupted into applause and others defied a new ban on holding signs during committee proceedings. Only after troopers cleared the room was Neumann allowed to return to testify.