- Associated Press - Thursday, January 30, 2014

PIERRE, S.D. (AP) - South Dakota public officials will not be allowed to carry guns in the state Capitol.

On Thursday, the state House voted down a bill that would have allowed state and local officials with concealed weapons permits to bring firearms into public buildings. The vote count was 49-18.

Main sponsor Rep. Betty Olson, R-Prairie City, said lawmakers are “sitting ducks” and need to be able to protect themselves.

“I don’t think we will ever have to worry about that if the bad guy knows there is someone in here who could shoot back,” Olson said.

And, Rep. Stace Nelson, R-Fulton, cautioned lawmakers from his own experience that attacks do take place.

“Gun-free zones only protect those who don’t respect the law,” Nelson said.

Opponents argued it would give public officials a special privilege and that elected officials don’t necessary carry identification for their office.

During a committee hearing earlier this week, representatives of law enforcement agencies, lawyers, local governments and the courts made the same point. They testified that law enforcement officials would struggle to identify who was allowed to have concealed weapons in the Capitol and county courthouses.

Rep. Melissa Magstadt, R-Watertown, felt local officials should have had more say in this legislation.

“I think this needs to go back to the conversation table,” Magstadt said. “I will vote against this bill today, but I am not against this concept.”

Republican Rep. Anne Hajek, of Sioux Falls, spoke in opposition, and said she doesn’t “feel unsafe here.”

In Thursday’s session, a few lawmakers - including Rep. Jim Peterson, D-Revillo - mentioned their NRA membership while declaring opposition to the bill.

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