Apr 4, 2023 - Podcasts

Red flag laws and the role of local officials

Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee was joined by state lawmakers on Monday to announce potential new measures to protect teachers and students against gun violence. This was in response to the deadly mass shooting at Nashville's Covenant School where three children and three adults were killed last week.

  • Plus, the Artemis II moon mission announces its historic crew.
  • And, a major media deal creates a new sports entertainment company.

Guests: Axios' Adam Tamburin, Sara Fischer and The Guardian’s Abené Clayton.

Credits: Axios Today is produced by Niala Boodhoo, Alexandra Botti, Robin Linn, Lydia McMullen-Laird, Fonda Mwangi and Alex Sugiura. Music is composed by Evan Viola. You can reach us at [email protected]. You can text questions, comments and story ideas to Niala as a text or voice memo to 202-918-4893.

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NIALA: Good morning! Welcome to Axios Today!

It’s Tuesday, April 4th.

I’m Niala Boodhoo.

Today: the former president faces his historic criminal charges. And the Artemis II moon mission announces its historic crew. Plus, a major media deal creates a new sports entertainment company. But first, red flag laws and the role of local officials in preventing gun violence. That’s today’s One Big Thing.

The former president faces his historic criminal charges

Before we get to our One Big Thing today, a note that former president Trump is expected to surrender to prosecutors this afternoon to face criminal charges. We’ll be watching that, as well as Trump’s planned remarks tonight from Mar-a-Lago. Keep your questions coming about Trump’s indictment: text me at 202-918-4893.

Red flag laws and the role of local officials in preventing gun violence

NIALA: Yesterday, Tennessee Governor Bill Lee was joined by state lawmakers to announce potential new measures to protect teachers and students against violence. This was in response to the deadly mass shooting at Nashville’s Covenant School where three children and three adults were killed last week. Axios’ Nashville reporter Adam Tamburin has been closely following these events.

ADAM TAMBURIN: Tennessee Governor Bill Lee is building on familiar ground for his policy response to The Covenant School shooting. He's focusing on improving school safety, which is how the Republican dominated state government has responded to school shootings elsewhere.

One of Lee's new policies is to use $140 million in state funding to hire SRO’s or train guards for every public school in the state. He is also adding funding for security upgrades at private and public schools. Funding will also go toward increasing mental health staff in schools.

A lot of discussion in Tennessee following the shooting has focused on red flag laws, which allows authorities to take guns away from people who are a danger to themselves or others. Lee says he is open to the idea but he also wants to maintain constitutional protections for Tennesseans. He is leaving it to lawmakers to hash out a specific plan. And that might be difficult in Tennessee where many conservative lawmakers are resistant to any gun regulation. Lee says he expects lawmakers to hammer out specific proposals in the coming weeks.

NIALA: Axios’ Adam Tamburin in Nashville.

The Covenant School mass shooting was the deadliest shooting in Tennessee history, once again forcing a conversation on gun control on the national level. But what kind of role do state and local governments have here?

Abené Clayton, reporter for the Guardian based in California, has been thinking a lot about this…

Abené, just how much of a role do state and city lawmakers play when it comes to gun safety?

ABENÉ CLAYTON: Well, especially in the direct aftermath of a high profile mass shooting, we often look to like the federal government and Congress, but if you look at individual states, that's where you're going to see red flag laws created, which is something that comes after every mass shooting, when we're asking how could we have known, how could this have been flagged to law enforcement before? And usually, you know, it comes back to red flag laws, which only 19 states in the U.S. have. Even the states that do have them, sometimes they're contentious and you'll have county sheriffs saying they won't enforce them. So state and city and county officials have a really big role to play in preventing mass shootings and responding to them with trauma care and life-giving resources that could stop future incidents.

Gun violence happens locally. It manifests itself locally. You know, people live in their community before they go on to do something, usually in their same community that ends up becoming a national headline and they're just is so little being done about it. And I think we really need to ask our state lawmakers, what are you doing at home?

NIALA: Can you remind us what red flag laws actually are?

ABENÉ: So red flag laws are provisions that are implemented at the state level that are supposed to allow teachers, parents, law enforcement officials to petition a judge to get guns removed from somebody who's deemed to be at risk of harming themselves or somebody else and also has access to firearms.

One of the primary reasons that, like, emergency risk protection orders and gun violence restraining orders exist is to stop people from killing themselves or killing their families, killing the people closest to them in the home. It's not necessarily just meant to stop mass shootings.

NIALA: And let's take a look at Tennessee specifically. How easy is it to get a gun in Tennessee compared to other states?

ABENÉ: Well being based in California, the difference is really stark. Tennessee is a “may carry” state, which means that anyone who's over 21 can go into a firearm store and buy a handgun and carry it on them without a permit. And, in California that's really different. The waitlist to get a, a CCW, as it's called, is years long and there are plenty of lawsuits about it. But in Tennessee that doesn't really exist. If you're 21 and not a prohibited person. You don't have any specific felonies or misdemeanors on your record. You can go into a store, by all accounts, and buy a handgun and carry it on your person, have it in your home, et cetera.

NIALA: People are asking if a red flag law would've prevented the Nashville deaths. What's your response to that?

ABENÉ: I think it is complicated for a few reasons. One is even in places where there are red flag laws in cases where someone has taken a domestic violence restraining order out on someone. People are still able to get a firearm. So I wanna make sure I say that first, that we really don't know. But I do think that given the anecdotes we've heard, from the individual's teachers and their parents about some concerning behavior about knowledge, that there was a gun present at one point that they weren't completely sure was gone.

I think that is where not only having a red flag law in place, but having the education that's supposed to correspond with having a red flag law in place could provide to that family, has the potential for intervention that shouldn't be discounted. For context, every time President Biden has put out, like, an executive action around gun violence prevention, it will include money for states and counties to educate people on how to use red flag laws. It's a really key part of getting these things to work because they're only as good as people knowing about them.

So do I know that if Tennessee had a red flag law, this would've been stopped? No, but I think that having the option and having the knowledge and having some sort of infrastructure for concerned family members, for concerned educators to go to somebody and to literally raise the kind of red flag would have been helpful, at minimum.

NIALA: Abené Clayton is a reporter for The Guardian based in California. Thanks for being with us.

ABENÉ: Thank you for having me.

NIALA: After the break, a huge new media deal.


Major media deal creates a new sports entertainment company

NIALA: Welcome back to Axios Today. I’m Niala Boodhoo.

Endeavor, the sports and entertainment company that runs Ultimate Fighting Championship, has acquired World Wrestling Entertainment, the companies announced Monday. I asked Axios’ Sara Fischer to explain why this matters.

SARA FISCHER: At a time when the media industry is facing unprecedented disruption. This deal offers a glimmer of hope. The combined company between the WWE and the UFC will be valued at more than $21 billion once it gets spun out publicly next year.

This also represents a huge comeback for Vince McMahon, the controlling shareholder of the WWE who retired last year after it was made public that he made settlement payments north of $14 million to various women around sexual misconduct lawsuits. McMahon will serve as executive chairman of the newly combined company.

NIALA: That’s Axios’ Sara Fischer.

Artemis II moon mission announces its historic crew

BILL NELSON: Ladies and gentlemen, your Artemis II crew. (cheering)

NIALA: That’s NASA Administrator Bill Nelson yesterday announcing the astronauts that will fly around the Moon in 2024 – including the first woman and first person of color to do so. The crew is made up of NASA astronauts Christina Hammock Koch, Victor Glover and Reid Wiseman, as well as Canadian astronaut Jeremy Hansen.

NELSON: It's been more than a half century since astronauts journeyed to the moon. Well folks, that's about to change.

NIALA: The 2024 Artemis II mission won't actually land on the Moon but will go beyond it, testing out its systems with people aboard for the first time. They’re paving the way for a future mission – with a crew that will also include a person of color and a woman – to land on the Moon in 2025.

That’s it for us today! I’m Niala Boodhoo - thanks for listening - stay safe and we’ll see you back here tomorrow morning.

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