South Dakota’s NICS exempt ‘gold card’ facing federal delays

A new permit in South Dakota designed to speed up the gun buying process is seeing implementation delays this week, after it was supposed to take effect on the first of the year.

Applicants for the “gold card” undergo a check with the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System, have their fingerprints logged, and pay $113.25 in fees, and then they’re issued a five year permit that allows them to buy guns during that time without having to run a background check for each gun purchase. In other words, they’re NICS exempt.

In addition to the purchase benefits, the permit also allows for the concealed carry of weapons within South Dakota and “probable recognition” in 30 other states, according to the South Dakota Secretary of State’s Office. An enhanced version of the permit grants concealed carry recognition in an additional six states, as well as the five year NICS exempt purchase window, but applicants must take and pass a course to qualify.

When implemented, South Dakota will be the 27th state to enact such a permit, per the Brady Law and ATF guidelines. But it’s not clear when the permit will be available. Under the law, South Dakotans apply for the permit at their local sheriff’s office, but the sheriffs are waiting on the feds.

“We need to take finger prints to do the background check, but the FBI has not given us everything we need to do that,” South Dakota Sheriff’s Association Executive Director Staci Ackerman told KSFY last week.

A week later, the sheriffs are still waiting. And that’s not all that’s necessary for the law to take effect: the ATF has to approve the NICS exemption status for gold and enhanced card permits.

Brandon Maddox, owner of Dakota Silencer and president of the Dakota Territory Gun Collectors Association, was instrumental in pushing the gold card bill through the state legislature last year. He said he’s been communicating with the ATF through his lawyers about the status of that NICS exemption approval.

“My attorney talked to her last week and she said it’s on her desk to respond this week,” he said in an interview with Wednesday.

Maddox said he spent tens of thousands of dollars out of his own pocket to get the law on the books. For him, it was a business move.

“I have a location in every state that touches South Dakota, and in every state that touches South Dakota, with the exception of Minnesota, if you have a concealed carry permit, you don’t have to have a NICS check,” said Maddox. “So we’ve kind of seen it firsthand the benefit of having a concealed carry that negates the need for a background check.”

Citing a National Shooting Sports Foundation report, Maddox said the nine percent of background checks that get delayed often result in lost sales for him. And a lot of his business comes from events happening all over South Dakota.

“The customer might be … three or four hours away from the dealer because they met at a gun show. So the delay is essentially a dead sale,” said Maddox, noting that the buyer and seller are unlikely to meet up after the event.

But the gold card law has an even wider impact for Maddox’s business, because, he said, it will allow him to mail suppressors all over the state.

“Federal law says that if you don’t have to do a background check on a purchase that you can mail a firearm to a person in a state where you have a location,” he said. “We never have to meet with them, which is great. I mean that’s a huge benefit.”

But not everyone is a fan of the gold card. Lindsay Nichols, a senior attorney at the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, said despite the fingerprint requirement, there’s still the potential for someone to slip through the cracks.

“Fingerprinting happens when people are arrested for a crime, but it doesn’t necessarily happen when they’re becoming subject to a restraining order,” said Nichols in an interview with “Very often we’ve seen people who, they’re issued a restraining order because there’s serious domestic abuse happening, or they’d just been released from a mental institution or something like that. They’re somebody who shouldn’t have a gun, at least during that period of time. And if the permit hasn’t been revoked, if law enforcement doesn’t catch that, then they’re going to be able to get access to a gun.”

Nichols said the five year window on the gold card circumvents the whole reason for background checks.

But without ATF approval, or the proper materials from the FBI so the sheriffs can fingerprint, the gold card can’t take effect.

“We thought we would hear before Jan. 1,” said Maddox, talking about the pending ATF approval. “Hopefully it gets to our South Dakota Attorney General by the end of the week.”

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