Bill That Nixes Gun Free Zones On College Campuses Heads To Senate Floor

Feb 12, 2019

Credit SDPB


A senate committee is passing a bill that allows guns on college and tech school campuses.

Proponents of the bill say the Board of Regents is breaking state law by making campuses gun free zones.

Opponents say it will negatively impact student wellbeing and the education process.

The bill prevents the state’s universities and tech schools from adopting policy that regulates carrying or possessing a firearm within the boundaries of those institutions.

Proponents of the bill, like Republican State Senator Stace Nelson, say the Board of Regents is violating current state law. Nelson says state agencies are prohibited from adopting rules against carrying a pistol.

“They’re doing so rather glibly and defiantly right here in our own South Dakota legislature,” Nelson says. “That needs to be rectified. That needs to be addressed. Either the rule of law applies to everyone or it doesn’t.”

However, state law carves out an exception for student matters under the jurisdiction of the Board of Regents.

Opponents of the bill include the Board of Regents, Technical Institutes, the South Dakota Education Association, Police Chief’s Association, and the student body governments of USD, School of Mines and SDSU.

Cole McDougall is the government affairs chair of the SDSU Students’ Association. He says mixing guns with high alcohol use and mental health issues on campus concern him… as well as potential student-professor disputes over grades.

“If someone doesn’t get what they want on campus and they have very easy access to that fire arm, it’s something that could go very wrong,” McDougall says. “We want to make sure every student has the chance to graduate. We want to make sure every student gets the chance to walk across that stage. This bill prohibits that.”

McDougall says guns on campus is a decision that’s best left to the Board of Regents.

The NCAA refuses to comment on this issue saying it’s for lawmakers to debate.