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Lawmakers set to debate bill allowing guns in state Capitol

December 13, 2018

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) — A measure set for debate in South Dakota’s upcoming legislative session would allow concealed pistols inside the state Capitol.

House Majority Leader Lee Qualm told The Associated Press this week that he plans to propose a bill similar to an unsuccessful 2017 measure that would have allowed people with an enhanced permit to bring concealed handguns into the building if they registered beforehand with security.

It’s unclear how such a plan would fare under Republican Gov.-elect Kristi Noem’s administration.

A spokeswoman for Noem said in a statement that Noem is a strong Second Amendment supporter but won’t commit to legislation until she can review its text. Incoming Lt. Gov. Larry Rhoden voted for the 2017 bill as a state representative.

Qualm said he doesn’t agree with gun-free zones, adding that Capitol security can’t be everywhere, all the time.

“The mood of the country, you know, there’s some crazy things that are happening out there, and for us not to be able to defend ourselves and protect ourselves just doesn’t make any sense,” Qualm said. “We need to be proactive on this.”

The 2017 measure would also have included qualified law enforcement officers and qualified retired officers. Outgoing Gov. Dennis Daugaard vetoed the 2017 bill, saying in his veto message that law enforcement protection in the building provides a secure environment.

Republican Sen. Arthur Rusch, an opponent, said that he thinks allowing concealed pistols in the Capitol would make it a riskier place. Rusch said he’s satisfied with Capitol security, which is provided by the South Dakota Highway Patrol.

There are no metal detectors or other security checks at the Capitol entrances to enforce the current prohibition on most people carrying guns in the building.

At the end of November, there were 107,172 active regular, gold card and enhanced permits in South Dakota, according to the Secretary of State’s office. To date in 2018, 1,474 new enhanced permits have been issued. An enhanced permit has requirements including completing a training course.

The 2019 legislative session begins Jan. 8. Lawmakers are also likely to take up legislation that would allow people to carry concealed handguns without a permit in South Dakota.

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