PIERRE, S.D. (AP) - A Senate panel on Thursday approved a measure that would allow people to carry concealed handguns without a permit in South Dakota, advancing a conservative priority that supporters hope will be achieved under new Gov. Kristi Noem’s administration.
The Senate Judiciary Committee voted 4-3 to send the bill to the full chamber. A similar proposal passed the Legislature in 2017 before being vetoed by former Gov. Dennis Daugaard, but Noem offered support for a so-called constitutional carry law during her campaign.
Noem said Lt. Gov. Larry Rhoden met Thursday at her request with gun-rights advocates, law enforcement, community leaders and lawmakers about firearms legislation. The meeting was intended to discuss priorities and how to find agreement by the end of the 2019 session, she said.
“I’ve supported the principle of constitutional carry, and … I’ve talked extensively about that, so we will look at specific language in each of these bills and see where the support is,” Noem said. “I’ve also talked extensively about the fact that it’s important to me that we consult with law enforcement officers … because their role is incredibly important with making sure that we’re protecting people while protecting people’s rights.”
It is now a misdemeanor for someone to carry a concealed pistol or to have one concealed in a vehicle without a permit; openly carrying a firearm in South Dakota is legal.
Senate President Pro Tempore Brock Greenfield, the permitless carry bill’s sponsor, said people are being asked to “lease back” their constitutionally protected right to bear firearms under the current system.
“We’re not trying to create a situation in which South Dakota is the Wild West,” Greenfield said. “We’re simply trying to create a situation in which we recognize that the Second Amendment is paramount and will not be infringed.”
South Dakota Sheriffs’ Association lobbyist Richard Tieszen, who opposed the measure, said the group believes the limitations that exist today under the permit process are reasonable. The association’s greatest concern is that the proposal wouldn’t apply just to state residents, but also to anyone who comes to South Dakota, he said.
Democratic Sen. Craig Kennedy, a bill opponent, said that he believes rules in state law that restrict who can get a permit wouldn’t apply to people who carry concealed without one under the legislation. Some of the disqualifying factors are covered in other areas of the law, but not all of them, he said.
But Greenfield said he’s simply seeking to change how law-abiding citizens can carry concealed handguns.
“My legislative intent is to simply affect the permitting process and not create a situation in which it’s somehow legal for a person to possess a firearm when in present day it’s illegal for that very person to obtain a firearm and to carry concealed,” Greenfield said.
At least 13 states -including neighboring North Dakota - allow people to carry a concealed handgun without a permit, according to the National Rifle Association Institute for Legislative Action. At the end of November, there were roughly 107,000 pistol permits in South Dakota, according to the Secretary of State’s office.
Daugaard rejected the 2017 constitutional carry bill, saying the state’s current permitting process is “simple and straightforward.” Another try failed last year after he issued a veto threat.
The Senate panel also voted Thursday to advance a measure that would allow firearms in the Capitol building. Republican Sen. Stace Nelson, the bill’s main sponsor, said the measure would give lawmakers and state employees in the Capitol the ability to protect themselves “if and when something dire should happen.”
State Court Administrator Greg Sattizahn said the measure causes concern that it’s intended to limit the state Supreme Court’s authority regulate weapons in the courtroom.
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