The South Dakota State Legislature just passed House Bill 1248, which will make a legal correlation between possessing a drivers license and carrying a concealed pistol. I recently remarked in the Rapid City Journal that I thought the law was poorly constructed and that the Governor should veto it. My 400 word statement to the Journal reporter was reduced to 52 words and I think the point was slightly lost (not his fault, I was rambling a little). Since this is South Dakota and gun owner’s rights are sacred, I feel I need to explain further:
Currently, South Dakota requires that you apply for a permit to carry a concealed pistol. You get the permit for $10 as long as you meet some logical criteria found in SDCL 23-7-7.1:
(1) 18 years of age or older
(2) Never pled guilty to, nolo contendere to, or been convicted of a felony or a crime of violence;
(3) Not habitually in an intoxicated or drugged condition;
(4) No history of violence;
(5) Not been found in the previous ten years to be a “danger to others” or a “danger to self” as defined in § 27A-1-1 or is not currently adjudged mentally incompetent;
(6) Physically resided in and is a resident of the county where the application is being made for at least thirty days immediately preceding the date of the application;
(7) No violations of chapter 23-7 [firearms violations], 22-14 [more weapons violations], or 22-42 [drugs] constituting a felony or misdemeanor in the 5 years preceding the date of application or is not currently charged under indictment or information for such an offense;
(8) Citizen or legal resident of the United States; and
(9) Not a fugitive from justice.
It’s easy and inexpensive to obtain the permit. It ensures a proper computer background check to ensure the recipient of the permit is qualified to possess it. It is one of the least restrictive permitting processes there is. So what was wrong with it? Did it violate someone’s rights? Was it too inconvenient for people to obtain once every 4 years? There must have been a problem, but I was never made aware of it. Apparently the bill will fix it though. Here is the new rule – House Bill 1248, which will become law on July 1 if the Governor signs it:
BE IT ENACTED BY THE LEGISLATURE OF THE STATE OF SOUTH DAKOTA:
Section 1. The provisions of §§ 22-14-9, 22-14-9.1, 22-14-9.2 and 22-14-10 [concealed pistol laws] do not apply to any person, eighteen years of age or over with a valid South Dakota driver license, who is otherwise eligible to be issued a permit to carry a concealed pistol pursuant to chapter 23-7.
So that’s it. Possess a valid drivers license, have a clean record and a clean bill of mental health and you can carry. Get too many traffic tickets and lose your license – you can’t carry. Oh, and you have to know (through independent research or osmosis) the old criteria, which is also to be considered with the new law. Confusing.
Gun rights advocates claim Americans should carry weapons to make it a safer place to live. The NRA reports the accounts of citizens shooting intruders, etc. to demonstrate just how valuable guns are in our lives. Anyone want to compare those statistics with the injuries and deaths related to accidental discharges? I get gun rights. I believe in the right to possess and carry firearms. But shouldn’t we weigh the risk to our communities? What is wrong with an easy, logical permitting process that allows a background check in a controlled environment?
House Bill 1248 is permissive legislation and some people who don’t currently carry guns will start carrying them when this law goes into effect. Some of them will violate criminal statutes because they’re ignorant of the law or in denial of a mental health condition. The guy who possesses a concealed pistol and lets his drivers license expire will suddenly become a criminal by violating a firearms law. And this is an improvement….how?
Here are my real problems with the new proposed law: What is the possible correlation between being able to obtain a SD drivers license and being able to possess a concealed firearm? How is the average citizen supposed to be aware of the criteria which will be hidden in state law after July 1? And when a police officer stops a gang member at 2 a.m., how the heck is (s)he supposed to do a thorough background check in real time, on-scene during a field investigation? I suppose when we temporarily seize a handgun because we can’t immediately determine the background of the person carrying it, there will be more legislation prohibiting authorities from seizing guns without due process. Where does this stop? The new law is unreasonable.
My point is simple: I am urging the Governor to veto this bill not because South Dakota is interested in controlling gun possession, but because South Dakotans deserve a better law that won’t put them at risk of either being unnecessarily prosecuted or threatened by someone unfit to carry a pistol.