Gun reform bills crushed by South Dakota legislature

A state Senate committee defeated outright Tuesday a pair of measures that would have brought constitutional carry and other reforms which had already passed the South Dakota House.

The legislation had originated in the lower chamber where they saw broad support in a 52-15 vote in January for a bill to allow permitless concealed carry, while a separate measure to reform how the state performs background checks for gun purchases passed 44-23 on Feb. 10. However, the state Senate Judiciary Committee torpedoed both by a 5-1 and 6-1 vote, respectively.

“They think that a gun is a magic wand and they can waive that around and people will do exactly what they want them to do which is not true,” said Sen. Arthur Rusch, R-Vermillion, who cast his vote to send the bills to the session’s 41st day, effectively killing them.

The two bills, HB1096 and HB1116, drew vocal opposition from the South Dakota Sheriff’s Association and are now likely dead.

House Bill 1096 was written to allow the state police to simply use the National Instant Criminal Background Check System maintained by the Federal Bureau of Investigation to perform mandated checks on concealed carry permit applicants. Further, it would have had the effect of allowing gun buyers to show their permit to federal firearms licensees in the state rather than obtain a separate NICS check for each gun transfer.

House Bill 1116 would have allowed those lawfully able to possess a handgun to be able to carry it concealed without a permit. South Dakota currently has some 76,600 permit holders and, if the legislation would have passed in its current form, would have retained the licensing scheme for the sake of out of state travel reciprocity.

Currently, the practice outlined in the bill, commonly known as constitutional carry, is the law of the land in Vermont, Arizona, Alaska and Wyoming.

The measures had the support from the National Rifle Association, who lamented Tuesday’s Senate vote.

“It’s very unfortunate that anti-gun legislators on the Senate Judiciary Committee ignored the rights of gun owners in South Dakota and voted against these common sense reforms,” read a statement issued by the NRA’s Institute for Legislative action.

Constitutional carry bills are up at bat and very much alive in other states this legislative session.

In Kansas, a measure that was heard by a Senate committee earlier this month has enough votes among sponsors alone to pass that body. That legislation as well as similar moves in New Hampshire has groups under the Everytown gun control umbrella campaigning in protest against its expected passage.

Another bill afoot in Texas  earned Republican Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick the scorn of gun rights groups after he mentioned that even less expansive open carry measures might not gain traction this year. Following that gaffe, the legislation is still alive despite extremely strong opposition from law enforcement groups and Dems in Austin.

Lawmakers in South Dakota have advised they will work on a compromise bill for the next session.