- Associated Press - Thursday, February 4, 2016

PIERRE, S.D. (AP) - A bill that would have allowed concealed weapon permit holders to bring guns into the South Dakota state Capitol failed in a legislative committee Thursday.

The Senate Judiciary Committee voted down the plan that would have removed from state law a ban on carrying firearms in the Capitol building.

Republican Sen. Betty Olson said her proposal would deter potential attackers, but the state Highway Patrol urged lawmakers to leave the protection of the Capitol to trained law enforcement officers.

Olson, who has a concealed weapon permit, said she wants to be able to protect herself. State lawmakers would be “sitting ducks” in the House and Senate chambers if a shooter took aim from the upper galleries, Olson said.

There are no metal detectors or other security checks at the Capitol entrances to enforce the current prohibition of guns in the building.

“I would like to be able to have my concealed weapon in my seat in case somebody stands up there and starts shooting,” Olson said, noting that law enforcement has limited resources. “Those guys can’t be everywhere all the time, and there’s going to be a lot of us dead if we have a mass shooting.”

The bill would have allowed legislators to inform Capitol security that they’re carrying weapons and volunteer to assist if necessary. The proposal would also have allowed certain state officials, such as the governor, to post signs barring concealed weapons in galleries or specific offices.

But the South Dakota Highway Patrol, which is tasked with protecting the Capitol, opposed the bill because it could create confusion for authorities responding to a violent situation, said Maj. Dana Svendsen, an assistant superintendent.

“Please let law enforcement make the tough calls and do the job we’re here to do,” he said.

South Dakota State Treasurer Rich Sattgast, who supports allowing concealed weapon permit holders to bring guns into the Capitol, said he doesn’t have the same ability to protect himself at work as others do.

Sattgast gave lawmakers on the committee the layout of his office, which handles cash every day, and said the door is unlocked because it needs to be accessible.

“We can’t have it set up like a liquor store in east St. Louis where you have a revolving glass door, because we need to have the interaction with the public,” he said.

Supporters of such a bill will have another opportunity to make their case on Friday, when a measure to allow concealed weapons in the Capitol or a county courthouse with an enhanced permit is set to be considered by the House State Affairs committee.


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