At left, Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear speaks during a press conference after five people were shot and six injured at a bank in downtown Louisville on Monday, April 10. At right, Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee responds to questions during a news conference on Tuesday, April 11 in Nashville.

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Gun violence has touched most American households, so it’s no surprise that a governor would know the victim of a mass shooting.

But it’s not one governor, and it’s not one mass shooting.

‘One of my closest friends’

Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear described “one of my closest friends,” Tommy Elliott, the senior vice president of Old National Bank who was among the five people struck down Monday during a shooting inside the Louisville bank.

“Tommy Elliott helped me build my law career. Helped me become governor. Gave me advice on being a good dad,” Beshear said at a news conference. “He’s one of the people I talked to most in the world and very rarely were we taking about my job.” Watch here.

Elliott also knew Florida’s senator and former governor, Rick Scott, who said on Twitter Monday that Elliott was his banker for many years.

‘Cindy was supposed to come over for dinner with Maria last night’

Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee was in a similar situation recently, when he shared in a video message that his wife, Maria, was a close friend of Cindy Peak and former colleague of Katherine Koonce, two women who were among the six people killed at Covenant School in Nashville in late March.

“Cindy was supposed to come over to have dinner with Maria last night after she filled in as a substitute teacher yesterday at Covenant,” Lee said the day after the shooting.

Most Americans have a personal experience

Beshear, a Democrat, and Lee, a Republican, join the majority of Americans who say their family has been touched by gun violence. In fact, most Americans – 54% – say they or a family member have personal experience with some form of gun violence, according to a new survey from the Kaiser Family Foundation.

The survey also found that:

  • 21% say they have personally been threatened with a gun.
  • 19% say a family member was killed by a gun (including suicide).
  • 17% have personally witnessed someone being shot.
  • 4% have personally shot a gun in self-defense.
  • 4% have been personally injured in a shooting.

Read the full report from CNN’s Deidre McPhillips, including how gun violence is more acutely experienced among Black adults.

What changes minds?

While most Americans feel some connection to gun violence, very few have power like a governor. For advocates of tougher gun laws, the unanswerable and recurring question is: What will it take to change the minds of policymakers to make it more difficult to obtain a gun?

Simply being touched by gun violence does not automatically make a person support all gun measures. Kaiser’s survey did not touch on how people affected by gun violence feel about gun policy, but a similar poll from last year did.

“There is not a consistent relationship between support for gun control policies and either recent experiences with gun violence or perceptions about the likelihood of being a victim of gun violence,” was one finding in the August 2022 UChicago Harris/AP-NORC Poll.

The authors did note that people who think they are more likely to be a victim of gun violence are more likely to support banning the sale of semi-automatic assault weapons.

One victim of gun violence is still a strong supporter of the Second Amendment

Rep. Steve Scalise of Louisiana, the second-ranking Republican in the House, was among the most seriously injured in a mass shooting that targeted Republicans lawmakers at a softball practice in Alexandria, Virginia, in 2017. But he has maintained staunch support for a broad interpretation of the Second Amendment.

Scalise opposed the bipartisan gun legislation that passed through Congress last year to expand the background check system and encourage red flag laws in states like Tennessee and Kentucky.

“We will not eliminate gun violence or prevent mass shootings by making it harder for law-abiding citizens to exercise their right of self-defense,” Scalise said in a statement at the time.

There have been some notable political evolutions on guns

Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California, who has long been an advocate for tougher gun laws, was herself once inspired to purchase and carry a concealed weapon after a bomb planted at her house failed to go off in the 1970s.

“I know the sense of helplessness that people feel,” Feinstein said during a 1995 Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on terrorism after the Oklahoma City bombing. “I know the urge to arm yourself. Because that’s what I did.”

She stopped carrying the gun after she was present at a shooting in San Francisco City Hall. In 1978, a former council member shot and killed San Francisco Mayor George Moscone and Supervisor Harvey Milk. Feinstein, who ascended to the mayor’s office after Moscone’s death, stopped carrying her concealed weapon.

She made a show of giving up her gun as she tried to get San Franciscans to comply with a city handgun ban. The ban was later invalidated by a state court. Feinstein has remained an advocate of tougher gun laws.

10 years after shooting, Reagan endorsed new laws

Former President Ronald Reagan was shot in 1981 by the delusional John Hinckley, Jr., who was trying to impress the actress Jodie Foster.

Hinckley, who was released from court supervision after 41 years in 2022, used a .22 caliber revolver to shoot both Reagan and his press secretary, James Brady, who was paralyzed in the attack and became an advocate of tougher gun laws. A decade after the shooting, long after he left office, Reagan wrote an op-ed in The New York Times endorsing the “Brady bill,” which was ultimately passed in 1993 and created the first version of the federal background check system.

Something new in Tennessee

Lee, who oversaw the loosening of Tennessee’s gun laws in recent years, signaled a key evolution on Tuesday, when he announced support for an “order of protection” law, otherwise known as a red flag law.

“A new strong order of protection law will provide the broader population cover, safety, from those who are a danger to themselves or the population,” Lee said. He will also strengthen the state’s background check system.

Beshear, meanwhile, has been at odds with the Republican-controlled legislature in his state, which can override his veto with a simple majority.

It did not matter that he neither signed nor vetoed a bill meant to make Kentucky a “Second Amendment sanctuary,” prohibiting local authorities from enforcing federal firearms regulation, when it came to his desk in March. The bill became law anyway.

Florida, under Scott’s governorship, enacted a red flag law in 2018 that also raised the gun buying age to 21 after a string of mass shootings, including at a Parkland high school and the Pulse nightclub.

At the time, it was seen as a key evolution by a Republican governor working with a Republican majority. Scott later opposed legislation to do the same at the national level.

Supporting an assault weapons ban after a close call

One Republican lawmaker who evolved is Rep. Mike Turner of Ohio, whose daughter was present for a mass shooting in Dayton that killed nine in 2019. Turner endorsed the idea of an assault weapons ban the next day.

CNN’s Dana Bash asked Turner after the recent Nashville shooting about his message to fellow Republicans, who have not followed him.

“I think this is one that we need to address – the story is always the same,” Turner said. “We hear that people learned that these people were a threat, and then they take these actions. We certainly need to do more to intervene.”

More than half of states no longer require permits

But the balance of gun legislation in most states has been moving away from regulation and toward more individual freedom.

Both Tennessee and Kentucky are among the states that allow most people to carry a concealed weapon without a permit, a key priority for gun rights activists, and one of the reasons why the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence gives both states a failing grade on gun safety laws. Here’s our recent report on how Giffords gives out its grades.

Florida became the 26th state to enact a version of permitless carry when Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a new law last week. Background checks are still required to purchase a gun. Read the full story from CNN’s Steve Contorno and Kit Maher.

But the current background check system has proven to be an imperfect way to keep guns out of the wrong hands. The Louisville shooter, Connor Sturgeon, bought his AR-15-style rifle legally at a dealership six days before going on a rampage and taking five lives.