The big news this past week is probably the “gun bill”. Senate bill 47 (SB47) passed the House 43-27 on its final stop in the legislative process, and was signed into law by Governor Noem at her first official bill signing ceremony on Thursday. The Governor had clearly campaigned that she supported what is sometimes called “Constitutional carry”, so it was no surprise that she signed the bill.
This idea has strong opinions on both sides and although it has passed the legislature before, previous Governor’s had vetoed it. In case you are wondering, I voted for this bill. While the arguments on both sides have merit, I am influenced most by our State Constitution, which every legislator takes an oath to defend. While one could possibly argue what is meant in the 2nd Amendment to the US Constitution, our state Constitution is very clear. In Article VI of our “Bill of Rights”, at section 24, it says, “The right of the citizens to bear arms in defense of themselves and the state shall not be denied.” That’s concise and pretty clear to me.
South Dakotans have a Constitutional right to have a gun for personal protection, not just in our homes, but anywhere we are (with a few exceptions, like court houses, schools and bars). Requiring us to apply for and get a permit to do what the Constitution guarantees is an unwarranted restriction. It can also be a burden to some. We heard testimony of people who live a long way from the Sheriff’s office and had to make 2 trips to get the permit. One to do the paperwork, and a follow up trip to pick up the temporary permit and pay the fee after the sheriff had reviewed it and signed off. That can take days. In contrast, law-abiding citizens can buy a gun with only a short wait while a federal background check is completed to ensure they can legally do so.
We also were reminded that current state law allows people to carry “openly” (as in a holster on your side or lying on the seat of your car), but once you put on a coat or toss something on the seat so that the gun isn’t visible, then you have broken the law. Doesn’t that seem a little silly, to make law-abiding citizens guilty of a crime because they put a coat on? Or consider the case of an abusive relationship that erupts on a weekend. No “restraining order” could protect her, but a concealed firearm might. In my opinion, she shouldn’t have to drive a long distance or wait days for a piece of paper (permit) to be able to protect herself using a right our Constitution guarantees.
It’s also important to note that there is a long list of restrictions to buying or possessing a gun (cannot be a felon, cannot be habitually drugged or intoxicated, can have no history of violence . . .) and these people cannot legally own, possess or carry a gun – openly or concealed. The new law goes into effect July 1 and doesn’t change these restrictions.
There are other important topics being discussed and debated in Pierre, but based on the number of questions I have had since getting home for the weekend, this one simply needed more explanation this week.
In service to God and you,
John Mills, Representative, District 4 firstname.lastname@example.org OR John.Mills@sdlegislature.gov