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Politics

As Some Carry Pistols, Others Could Be Disarmed At Capitol

State Capitol Building
Kealey Bultena
/
SDPB

  Legislators passed a law last year allowing some people to carry guns in the South Dakota Capitol at Pierre, but beginning next week, other people could be disarmed at the Capitol door. 

  Capitol visitors, who were previously able to enter the Capitol without going through security, must now pass through a new security screening room at the north entrance. The room is outfitted with a magnetometer to detect firearms and other potentially dangerous metal items.  

Craig Price, the secretary of the state Department of Public Safety, said nobody will be allowed to bring a firearm into the Capitol without the necessary permit and prior notification. People with an unauthorized gun could be asked to secure the gun in their vehicle.

“We would certainly make sure that things are safe and that things are handled before we just disengage with that particular person that was trying to get into the Capitol with an unauthorized firearm,” Price said. 

Other people will be allowed to enter the Capitol with a concealed pistol, thanks to a law that was passed by the Legislature and signed by Gov. Kristi Noem last winter. 

The new law says anyone with an enhanced concealed-carry permit can have a concealed pistol in the Capitol, if they provide at least 24 hours’ notice to Capitol Security before arriving with the pistol. To get a permit, there’s a $100 fee, a handgun training course and a background check. 

The law took effect in July; at that time, South Dakota became one of 18 states to allow some form of concealed-carry in a state Capitol.  

Then, in October, Price announced the plan for a new and permanent security screening room. The room has since been built at a cost of $60,000, and the security screening process will be implemented Monday, the day before the start of the 2020 legislative session. 

State Sen. Jim Stalzer, a Republican from Sioux Falls, said the Legislature was not consulted on the decision to construct the security screening room. 

“We were notified probably 48 hours before the public was,” Stalzer said. 

Stalzer was a sponsor of the Capitol guns bill, but he does not view the security screening room as a reaction to the bill, he said. Nor is he upset about the lack of consultation with the Legislature about the heightened security. He said security checkpoints in public buildings are “the way the world is going.” 

Another sponsor of the Capitol gun bill, Lee Qualm, who is the Republican state House majority leader from Platte, is also resigned to the need for beefed-up security. 

“There’s a lot of crazy people in this world, and you never know what they might do,” Qualm said. “It’s sad in one way that we have got to this point, but it’s everywhere. It’s not just in South Dakota. It’s everywhere that I think additional security is warranted.”   

Not everyone will have to pass through the security screening room. Legislators and state employees have special cards allowing them to enter any door.  

Frequent Capitol visitors can apply for a Capitol Access Pass to get through the security screening room quicker. Those applications are available from the Highway Patrol Office in Pierre, the Capitol Security Office or the Bureau of Administration website.  

Everyone without a special card or pass must go through the full screening process, which the Department of Public Safety said could take about five minutes. The department encourages visitors to allow for some extra time when they visit the Capitol, especially this year.