South Carolina

When the parishioners at the Lighthouse Mexico Church Of God gather for worship each Sunday, many of them are armed.

The fact that they carry is no secret. The church, located in the small, upstate town of Mexico, N.Y., says on its website that it's "not a gun-free zone." Pastor Ron Russell began to encourage church members to carry concealed weapons after Dylann Roof killed nine people at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, S.C. in 2015.

Across the country, U.S. residents have awakened to a new year, new resolutions — and a whole host of new rules to keep track of. Hundreds of new state laws took effect across the country Monday, and they're sure to reshape the political and legal landscape in the coming months.

They run a vast gamut — from recreational marijuana and paid leave time, to traveling barbers and exotic pets — so you'll have to forgive us if we pick just a few to focus on. Here is a glimpse of some notable new laws, in brief.

Michael Slager, the white former police officer who was filmed killing an unarmed black man in North Charleston, S.C., has been sentenced to 20 years in prison. In sentencing Slager, who pleaded guilty earlier this year to a federal civil rights violation, the judge ruled Thursday that he committed second-degree murder and obstruction of justice.

When three sacred staples of the South weren't safe from the cloudy, salty water in his town, Clay Duffie knew there was a problem.

"It'd kill your azaleas if you irrigated with it; your grits would come out in a big clump, instead of creamy like they should," Duffie said.

Even the sweet tea.

"Your tea would come out all cloudy," Duffie said. "Oh man, it was bad news."

Updated at 4:15 p.m. ET

A former police officer in North Charleston, S.C., accused in the shooting death of an unarmed black man in 2015 has pleaded guilty to a federal civil rights charge, according to his lawyer.

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Dylann Roof delivered his opening statement in a South Carolina courtroom Wednesday, as the penalty phase of his federal trial got underway. Roof, who was convicted last month of murdering nine black churchgoers, will be representing himself as jurors weigh whether to give him the death penalty or life in prison.

His remarks were brief, focused only on defending his decision to dismiss his lawyers for this phase of the trial.

He said it's "absolutely true" that he chose to represent himself so that his lawyers would not present evidence of mental illness.

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Updated at 4:45 p.m. ET

The judge in the murder trial of former North Charleston, S.C., police Officer Michael Slager declared a mistrial on Monday after the jury said it could not come to a unanimous decision.

"We as the jury regret to inform the court that, despite the best efforts of all members, we are unable to come to an unanimous decision in the case of the State vs. Michael Slager," a letter from the foreman of the jury read.

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