New Year, New Laws: States Diverge On Gun Rights, Voting Restrictions In North Carolina, you'll need ID to vote; in Oregon, people will be automatically registered. California has a new way to block a person's access to firearms; in Texas, expect to see more handguns.

New Year, New Laws: States Diverge On Gun Rights, Voting Restrictions

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MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

With the new year comes a long list of new laws taking effect across the country. Those laws show states moving in starkly different directions on some polarizing issues, especially voting and gun rights, as NPR's Joel Rose reports.

JOEL ROSE, BYLINE: Of all the laws going into effect, the most contentious might be in North Carolina.

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PAT MCCRORY: The integrity of our election process is vital to our democracy, which is why I've signed today several common-sense reforms.

ROSE: Republican Gov. Pat McCrory tried to downplay changes to the state's voter registration laws when he signed them back in 2013, including the most controversial part that takes effect this week - requiring North Carolinians to show photo ID at the polls.

MCCRORY: You need a photo ID to board an airplane, to cash a check, or even apply for most government benefits.

ROSE: But critics of the law say fears of vote fraud are overstated. Rev. William Barber is the head of North Carolina's NAACP. He says the law's real goal is to suppress turnout among core Democratic voters.

WILLIAM BARBER: The worst voter suppression law in the country - targeted in a way that it hurts African-Americans and women and the poor.

ROSE: North Carolina passed language softening the photo ID requirement last summer. But that has not satisfied the NAACP, which is still fighting the law in court. Across the country in Oregon, residents will now be able automatically registered to vote when they get a driver's license or a state ID card. Democratic Gov. Kate Brown signed that bill last March.

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KATE BROWN: Oregon is a true leader in accessibility to voting, and I challenge every other state in this nation to ensure that there are as few barriers as possible in the way of a citizen's right to vote.

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ROSE: The other hot-button issue is guns. Restrictions are getting tighter in California, where people can now ask a judge to temporarily seize weapons away from relatives who may pose a threat. Former State Assembly member Nancy Skinner, a Democrat, introduced the bill in 2014.

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NANCY SKINNER: There are many emotionally-charged circumstances that can cause people to be temporarily deranged. Mix those emotionally-charged circumstances with a gun and we have potential for lethal consequences.

ROSE: Gun rights advocates say the California law is a major overreach. Contrast that with what's happening in Texas, which already has some of the most permissive gun laws of any state. Republican Gov. Greg Abbott signed a law making it legal for citizens with permits to openly carry handguns.

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GREG ABBOTT: I am proud to expand the rights of gun owners in the state of Texas by signing into law open carry in Texas.

ROSE: Critics say the law will make Texans less safe, not more. But despite opposition from many of the state's police chiefs, the open carry law passed easily. Joel Rose, NPR News.

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