- Associated Press - Thursday, February 19, 2015

PIERRE, S.D. (AP) - Student representatives helped to successfully defeat a proposal on Thursday that would have allowed people 21 years or older to carry a concealed weapon on South Dakota’s six public university campuses.

The state House voted 48-20 against the proposal, which was opposed by student groups that pushed for lawmakers to deny the measure. The South Dakota Board of Regents also opposed the plan.

Jess Peterson, executive director of the South Dakota Student Federation, said she’s pleased lawmakers voted down the bill so that students can shift their attention back to other priorities.

“I’d much rather be focusing on the tuition freeze right now and all of those bills going through the Senate that help with student funding,” Peterson, a University of South Dakota student, said before the vote.

Republican Rep. Jim Stalzer said his plan came at the request of students who want to carry concealed firearms on campus. He said he’s concerned about student safety during potential terrorist attacks and believes in the deterrent effect that comes with concealed weapons.

“This is an emotional issue, but it really needs to be decided on the facts, and the facts are that concealed carry permits deter crime,” he said.

Rep. Paula Hawks, a Democrat from Hartford, urged lawmakers to listen to the students, especially after the proposal received such strong objections at the legislative committee stage.

“They are your constituents, they are of voting age and they do have voices,” she said. “Please listen to them.”

State law requires a permit to carry a concealed weapon or have it out of sight in a vehicle. But the Regents have a rule that guns are not allowed on public university campuses. Opponents have said the campuses have police and safety officials on them to keep students safe.

The group Students for Concealed Carry says seven states have some form of law governing campus carry.

The South Dakota proposal would have allowed universities to prohibit weapons in student housing. Changes made on the House floor would have allowed restrictions in other areas such as those near sensitive equipment.

But Peterson said defeating the measure was important to college students in the state because allowing concealed weapons on campuses would create a sense of unease among students.

“I’ve had students come up to me and say, ‘You know, I wouldn’t feel comfortable taking a test in a classroom where I knew a gun was in the backpack of a person next to me,’” she said.

Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC.

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