South Dakota is on a fast track to become the nation’s fourteenth state with nationwide constitutional carry after Senate Bill 47 passed on Tuesday with a 23-11 vote after about one hour of debate. Both the Senate and House currently have Republican majorities, the House even more than the Senate. The reason constitutional carry hasn’t been passed already isn’t for lack of trying on the legislators’ part: In fact, permitless carry has passed in both the House and Senate in South Dakota before. However, both bills – HB1248 and HB1072 – were vetoed in 2012 and 2017 respectively by the former (Republican) governor Dennis Daugaard. With the new governor Kristi Noem, also a Republican, in office, we’re optimistic for this third attempt.
State Senator Brock Greenfield made the following case in support of the proposed law, which will sound comfortably familiar to all of you:
“Law-abiding citizens are currently the only people obtaining permits to carry concealed. If you’re not a law-abiding citizen, you cannot obtain that permit. Allowing these individuals to carry concealed without a permit will not change the fact that they’re law abiding. Criminals, on the other hand, are already carrying concealed firearms without permits, with no regard for our laws,” Greenfield said.
The strongest argument against the bill was that is doesn’t have the support of the South Dakota Sheriff’s Association. As Republican State Senator Lee Schoenbeck pointed out, the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that the Second Amendment isn’t “limitless,” and indeed, a few hundred people are denied concealed carry permits annually in South Dakota. The county sheriffs’ offices are responsible for identifying residents who are disqualified from carrying a concealed weapon, and they oppose the legislation.
“I’m sticking with my sheriff on this one,” said Schoenbeck.
State Senator Stace Nelson also spoke out in favor of the bill with another well-rehearsed and well-loved argument, according to the Argus Leader:
The Second Amendment is the “law of the land” and the Legislature’s duty is clear when it comes to the bill. It would take longer to dial 911 than it would for him to reach his firearm, [Sen. Nelson] said. He added that allowing residents to carry concealed handguns without permits is “common sense” legislation that protects South Dakota residents.
In contrast, speaking as a minority voice in opposition to the bill, Democrat State Senator Susan Wismer said this interpretation of the Second Amendment is “damaging the fabric of our democracy” every time the topic is raised.
“We are creating an expectation of extraordinary absolute rights, and that is not healthy for a democracy,” said Sen. Wismer. “I think our democracy would be doing much better if we encouraged our citizens … to exercise just a bit of restraint and responsibility rather than sell that entitled attitude, the ‘we demand our rights’ philosophy.’”
In response to that, Republican State Senator Lance Russell said:
“I think describing people who want to exercise their constitutional rights as having an ‘entitlement mentality’ is a very dangerous of way of characterizing the right of people to exercise their constitutional rights, whether it be the First Amendment or the Fourth Amendment.”
We’re inclined to agree with South Dakota’s legislative majority on this one.