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New York and Tennessee have starkly different plans to curb gun violence

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

Two governors, in New York and Tennessee, signed measures today responding to gun violence in schools and other mass shootings. The measures, though, are starkly different. They reveal how, in the absence of congressional action, states are moving in different directions on gun safety. NPR's Brian Mann joins me. Hey, Brian.

BRIAN MANN, BYLINE: Hey, Mary Louise.

KELLY: Start us off in New York, where Governor Kathy Hochul signed 10 different measures toughening gun laws. What are they? What did she say?

MANN: Yeah. So New York is still reeling from the deadly racist violence in Buffalo, where a gunman last month used an AR-15-style rifle to kill 10 grocery shoppers, most of them Black residents. So speaking this morning, Hochul said after Buffalo and after the school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, it would be morally wrong to do nothing.

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KATHY HOCHUL: It just keeps happening. Shots ring out, flags come down, and nothing ever changes, except here in New York. In New York...

MANN: New York, of course, already had some of the toughest gun laws in the country, Mary Louise. Among other things, now these new laws will raise the age to buy an AR-15-style firearm from 18 to 21. It'll ban the sale of body armor to most individuals. And New York's going to ban large magazines, you know, clips of bullets that allow shooters to fire more rounds before reloading.

KELLY: OK. Let's compare that to what's happening in Tennessee, where their governor, Bill Lee, is also signing things. He signed an executive order on school safety.

MANN: Yeah. What's not in the Tennessee measure is any mention of gun control or firearm regulation. So it's a really different approach from New York. Tennessee's executive order focuses instead on this idea of hardening schools, which is a popular concept in many Republican-controlled states. Now Tennessee agencies will be ordered to give schools more guidance on how to boost school security, also encouraging parents to get more active advocating for safe schools and reporting danger. In a statement today, Governor Lee said his administration is doing its best to protect kids, but he didn't address questions about whether these kinds of measures will actually work. In Uvalde, remember, school police were on the scene but were not effective protecting the students and teachers who were killed.

KELLY: And we said when I introduced you, this is all happening at the state level in the absence of anything happening at the federal level. Has Congress made any progress, any recent moves on gun violence legislation?

MANN: Well, what we can say is that talks are continuing, led by Republican Senator John Cornyn from Texas and Democratic Senator Chris Murphy from Connecticut - both of their states, of course, scarred horribly by mass shootings at schools. In the past, these kinds of talks have sort of petered out without any new significant action. Always lots of worry and concern after these shootings, but not much in the way of results, and that's largely because of opposition from the GOP side to any significant gun control measures that appears fierce and unbudging.

KELLY: All right. I'll circle us back to New York, where there's a Republican facing a backlash for supporting new gun regulations. And again, this is in a state where gun control is broadly popular.

MANN: Right. Representative Chris Jacobs, a Republican who represents a district out near Buffalo, came out in favor of new restrictions. But then he faced this huge backlash. Here's what he said.

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CHRIS JACOBS: I made remarks before the press regarding my support of some gun control measures. Since that time, every Republican elected official that endorsed me withdrew their endorsement. Additionally, the Republican and conservative parties have now been circulating petitions to launch primaries against me.

MANN: So facing those headwinds, Jacobs won't run again. This shows how politically dangerous it is, Mary Louise, for Republicans to back almost any gun control measures.

KELLY: Thank you, Brian.

MANN: Thank you.

KELLY: NPR's Brian Mann. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.