- Associated Press - Wednesday, March 5, 2014

PIERRE, S.D. (AP) - People with mental illnesses who are deemed a threat to themselves or others would be added to a national registry and kept from obtaining guns under legislation the South Dakota Senate passed Wednesday.

The bill was approved 26-9 in the Senate after passing the state House last month. It now heads to Gov. Dennis Daugaard for final approval.

The National Rifle Association supports the measure, but the National Association for Gun Rights opposes it.

Sen. Craig Tieszen, a Rapid City Republican co-sponsored the legislation, urged his fellow lawmakers to “take a deep breath and consider the merits of this bill.”

Under the measure, people who are involuntarily committed to a mental health facility in a hearing with a county board would be added to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System. Licensed firearms dealers conduct a check through NICS to determine whether a customer is eligible to buy a gun. County sheriffs check it to determine if people should get permits to carry concealed handguns.

People acquitted of crimes by reason of insanity or deemed too mentally incompetent to stand trial also would be added to the registry.

Critics of the bill objected to the use of a national list. They argued the legislation infringes on gun rights.

“It’s a slippery slope,” said Sen. David Omdahl, R-Sioux Falls. “In my heart I just cannot support this bill, because I’m concerned about the erosion of people’s rights.”

Supporters said it promotes public safety. They said people can be removed from the registry once they manage their mental illness. The bill would allow people on the registry to petition a county judge to review their commitment.

“We can say that we have closed one door whereby our mentally ill citizens would have unabated access to firearms,” Tieszen said. “I think that is a reasonable thing to do.”

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