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Concealed weapons bill vetoed by SD governor

The vetoed bill would have made it difficult for law enforcement officers to determine whether people are qualified to carry concealed weapons or are prohibited from doing so because of criminal records or mental health problems.

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South Dakota Gov. Dennis Daugaard waits for the start of the opening session of the National Governors Association winter meeting in Washington, in Feb.

Cliff Owen/AP/File

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Gov. Dennis Daugaard vetoed a measure Friday that would have allowed South Dakotans to carry concealed handguns without a permit as long as they had a driver's license and met state standards for carrying guns.

In his veto message to the Legislature, the governor said he supports people's right to carry a concealed handgun under the current law that requires a permit. But the vetoed bill would have made it difficult for law enforcement officers to determine whether people are qualified to carry concealed weapons or are prohibited from doing so because of criminal records or mental health problems.

"South Dakota law already allows law-abiding citizens to carry a concealed weapon. The simple, straightforward permit process allows law enforcement to ensure that those who carry concealed weapons do not fall under one of the state's narrow exceptions," Daugaard wrote in his veto message.

In addition, the vetoed bill would have caused people who are legally carrying concealed weapons to be detained longer by law enforcement officers as officers checked whether the gun carriers had been convicted of serious crimes or had mental health problems, the governor said.

One of the bill's main sponsors, Sen. Larry Rhoden, R-Union Center, said he believes the governor is mistaken about how the measure would affect law enforcement. He said officers around the state hadn't mounted much opposition to the bill.

"I've maintained that unless there are very solid, legitimate reasons to put restrictions on your constitutional rights — in this case, your Second Amendment right to carry a firearm — unless you have a rock-solid reason to leave that restriction in place, it should be removed," Rhoden said.

A vetoed bill can become law if a two-thirds majority in both the House and Senate agree to override the veto. Rhoden said it might be difficult to override the veto Monday, the final day of the 2012 legislative session, because the Senate had originally passed the bill with less than a two-thirds majority.

South Dakota law does not require permits to own guns, keep them in a home or business or carry them openly. The bill would have allowed people to carry concealed handguns within the state without permits as long as they had a valid driver's license and otherwise met the requirements for a concealed weapons permit.

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Daugaard said even if the bill had become law, South Dakotans would have needed to a permit if they wanted to carry concealed guns in the 26 other states that honor South Dakota's permits.

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