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Tennessee special legislative session on public safety is extended into next week

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

This next story takes us to Tennessee, where a special legislative session to address public safety was supposed to wrap up last night. Lawmakers intended to respond to a school shooting in Nashville last spring. WPLN's Blaise Gainey reports on what happened instead.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTERS: Do your job. Do your job. Do your job.

BLAISE GAINEY, BYLINE: Activists yelled at lawmakers as they walked through the Capitol Thursday, screaming at them to do their jobs and take action to pass gun reform laws.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTERS: Protect kids not guns. Protect kids not guns.

GAINEY: This is a familiar scene. After the Covenant School shooting last spring, demonstrators flooded the state capitol with the same demands. This special session called by Governor Bill Lee was supposed to address those. Senator Bo Watson says it has.

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BO WATSON: We believe we've done what the governor brought us here to do. We passed what he gave us to pass, with the exception of one bill.

GAINEY: The Senate passed four out of the seven proposals the governor gave them, including free gun locks, more accurate background checks, a report on human trafficking and funding for all of it. But House Speaker Cameron Sexton says that's the bare minimum.

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CAMERON SEXTON: At this point, they haven't put forth a single idea that's theirs. So maybe next week they'll come back and do something.

GAINEY: Thursday night, the House passed one bill to block autopsies of minors from public record and another that requires schools to have an active shooter alarm. Even though the session was scheduled to wrap up Thursday, House Representatives sent those ideas to the Senate late in the day, forcing them to extend or risk looking like the bad guys. But to activists and Covenant parents like Melissa Alexander, they all look bad.

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MELISSA ALEXANDER: None of us have seen our children this week because of the long hours and early mornings we have spent here at the Capitol. But then again, some of our friends will never, ever see their children again.

GAINEY: Nobody was really expecting gun control legislation to come out of this special session anyway. For now, the ball is in the Senate's court. On Monday, we'll see if they decide to compromise or further the legislative standoff.

For NPR News, I'm Blaise Gainey in Nashville.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Blaise Gainey