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Legislation seeks to stop state cooperation with federal gun laws

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From Left: State Rep. Doug Barthel, State Rep. Peri Pourier, State Senator Jessica Castleberry

A bill proposing legal sanctions for state employees who assist enforcement of federal laws restricting guns and ammo is on hold until Valentine’s Day. The bill was heard in the House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday, Jan. 26. After hearing opponent testimony from state and local law enforcement officials, the committee delayed the bill until Feb. 14, to give the sponsors time to fix unintended consequences.

House Bill 1052 would stop employees of state and political subdivisions from enforcing federal weapons laws that don’t have corresponding laws in South Dakota . Those employees include Highway Patrol troopers, county sheriffs, and city police.

If passed, the new law would subject employees to a civil penalty of $1,000 for the first violation and a Class 1 misdemeanor for a subsequent violation.

State Sen. Jessica Castleberry is the main sponsor in the Senate (Rep. Aaron Aylward, R-Harrisburg, is the prime sponsor and introduced the bill in the House). Castleberry says federal gun restrictions violate South Dakotans’ state and federal constitutional rights to bear arms.

“Our state agencies, elected officials, and our tax dollars should not be utilized within the state of South Dakota, to enforce any unconstitutional laws,” Castleberry told the House committee.

But opponents say the bill could affect grants, contracts, and cooperation between state and federal agencies.

Representative Doug Barthel is a retired Sioux Falls chief of police. He says he supports gun rights, but he sees serious problems with House Bill 1052 as written.

“Let’s say there’s a call that goes out, there’s a man with a gun in the federal courthouse,” Bartels said in committee. “The Sioux Falls police officer driving by, they aren’t able to go in there and help under this, the way I read it, and I don’t want them to end up being arrested and end up with a thousand dollar civil penalty just because they want to help out their fellow federal officers.”

In tribal nations, serious crimes immediately become federal jurisdiction, according to Representative Peri Pourier of Oglala Lakota County . And she says tribes rely heavily on neighboring counties to help out.

“When there’s a pursuit, when there’s a shooting, when there’s any kind of violence, we have a lack of resources in our own back yard,” she told the committee.

She says there has to be cooperation between the counties, tribes, and feds for safety reasons.

The committee discussed killing the bill. Some members said it is too flawed for a quick fix. But the committee decided to keep it alive for a few more weeks to give it another chance.

Corrected: January 27, 2022 at 8:32 PM CST
EDITOR'S NOTE: This story has been updated to clarify the roles of the legislators sponsoring the legislation.
Rapid City freelancer Victoria L. Wicks has been producing news for SDPB since August 2007.