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Gun Bills Piling Up In The Legislature


An effort to continue rolling back gun restrictions in South Dakota stumbled out of the gate this week in the Legislature, but it’s just the first of several gun debates that will happen this winter in Pierre. 

Last year, lawmakers threw out the requirement to have a permit for a concealed weapon. They also repealed a restriction on guns in the state Capitol.  

This year, the first gun bill up for debate was Senate Bill 51. As originally drafted, it would’ve allowed county employees to carry guns and other weapons in county courthouses. 

Paul Nabholz is a Fall River County commissioner. He testified in favor of the bill Tuesday and said county employees need a way to defend themselves. 

“They currently cannot protect themselves in a building that announces they are in a gun-free zone,” Nabholz said. 

Several groups testified against the bill, including the South Dakota Sheriff’s Association. Dick Tieszen is a lobbyist for the association. He said the bill would make courthouses more dangerous. 

“We question the wisdom of legislation that would invite weapons into the courtroom,” Tieszen said. 

Lawmakers added two amendments to the bill during a committee hearing. The amendments caused so much confusion that the committee's vice chairman, Sen. Arthur Rusch, R-Vermillion, delayed further action until the bill could be redrafted with the amendments included. 

“We’ll try and get a hard copy so that we can all look at it before our next meeting and know what we did,” Rusch said. 

Several more gun bills filed so far this year would exempt firearms from sales taxes; repeal restrictions on guns while driving motorcycles, off-road vehicles and snowmobiles; and extend the authorization period for qualifying people who give notice of their intent to carry a concealed pistol in the Capitol. A non-binding resolution invites responsible gun owners from Virginia – where gun-control bills are being debated – to move to South Dakota. 

One other bill would stiffen gun restrictions. That bill, from Sen. Rusch, who’s a former judge, is a kind of red-flag law. It would authorize the creation of risk protection orders, to allow for the seizure of guns from people who are deemed a risk of injury or death to themselves or others. 

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