A piece of legislation that likely is very similar to a bill that couldn't survive a veto from Gov. Dennis Daugaard at the end of last year's legislative session has been introduced again.
The new bill may have the same intent as the one from last year. It couldn't be introduced, however, in a time of wildly different circumstances.
State Representative Lance Russell (R-Hot Springs) and Senator Ernie Otten (R-Tea) have introduced HB 1010, the South Dakota "Constitutional Carry Bill" of 2013.
The legislation is backed by an organization called South Dakota Gun Owners, which claims to have 4,000 members in the state.
In a press release issued by South Dakota Gun Owners Monday, Rep. Russell states, "This common-sense bill provides safety for South Dakota families and matches the clear intent of the Second Amendment."
The bill's supporters claim it has also won strong support from the National Association for Gun Rights, which has 1.8 million members and supporters nationwide and over 3,000 in South Dakota.
Excuse us if we don't share Russell's enthusiasm, or, for that matter, the excitement exhibited by South Dakota Gun Owners.
This bill was a bad idea last year, and it's still a bad idea. We say this without passion – it's easy, after the mass shootings this nation experienced in 2012, to be swayed by emotion instead of rational thought.
Sandy Hook happened approximately a month ago and many people are still reeling from that, with some calling for stricter gun control while others, citing the Second Amendment, call for an affirmation of the freedom to bear arms.
The South Dakota "Constitutional Carry Bill," if approved as currently written, removes the penalty for carrying a concealed handgun without a permit. According to South Dakota Gun Owners, it eliminates "intrusive, government mandated background-checks for law-abiding citizens and does away with the tax or fee and the waiting period currently required to obtain the permit."
South Dakota Gun Owners calls this a "common sense approach." We find it to still be just as unnecessary as it was last year, when the governor vetoed it, and for all of time before that when South Dakotans did just fine, thank you, without this law.
In his veto address last year, Daugaard said the state's permitting laws are already "fair and reasonable." Nothing since then has changed to make those laws unfair or unreasonable.
"Each year, locally-elected sheriffs deny permits, in most cases because the applicant has a serious criminal history," Daugaard wrote in his veto message. "Under this bill, those who are prohibited from carrying a concealed weapon would no longer be informed of that fact. Understandably, law enforcement officials from across South Dakota have objected to this bill."
There has been no press announcement, to our knowledge, from any state or local law enforcement organization in reaction to the announcement about this bill. Currently, sheriffs are required to issue permits to any adult who does not have something in their background that would prohibit them from carrying a weapon, such as a history of mental illness, chronic drug or alcohol use or violent crimes or domestic violence.
"Constitutional Carry" supporters evidently believe that the simple act of being required to get a permit to carry a gun is government overreach.
"Law-abiding people shouldn't be forced to get a government permit before they can exercise their right to self-defense," said Zach Lautenschlager, a senior consultant for South Dakota Gun Owners and the field director of the National Association for Gun Rights.
We believe the permitting process makes sense. It helps law enforcement identify people, who because of mental health issues or criminal convictions, shouldn't be carrying a concealed weapon or issued a concealed carry permit.
In its press release, South Dakota Gun Owners uses the flawed logic that since criminals don't get permits to use their guns, no one else should have to, either.
"Criminals don't stop to get a permit before they commit a crime with a handgun," Lautenschlager said. "But the permit does keep some law-abiding people from defending themselves, and restricting the right to self-defense actually helps cause terrible tragedies like the Aurora and Newtown shootings."
Yes, South Dakota Gun Owners are correct when they state that criminals won't stop to get a permit before using guns. Criminals won't get a fishing license before casting a line in their favorite fishing hole. That doesn't mean the SD GF&P should stop regulating hunting and fishing in our state.
There's no evidence that the permitting process has ever restricted anyone's right to self-defense. It appears, in fact, that state residents are having no problem abiding with current law so that they may carry concealed weapons.
South Dakota Secretary of State Jason Gant said his office has seen a significant increase in the number of permits to carry a concealed pistol issued in recent months. "The total number of active permits in South Dakota as of Jan. 11, 2013 is 65,754."
In 2011, nearly 16,000 concealed pistol permits were issued in South Dakota. That number grew to just over 18,000 in 2012.
In just the first 11 days of this month alone, concealed pistol permits have been issued to 3,029 South Dakotans.
A concealed weapons' permit requirement, is hardly a restriction on our constitutional rights. We urge state lawmakers to reject this highly unnecessary Constitutional Carry legislation.