PIERRE, S.D. — South Dakota lawmakers have given their final approval to a measure that would allow people to carry concealed handguns without a permit as long as they have a driver’s license and otherwise meet state standards for carrying guns.
The Senate voted 22-11 Tuesday to pass the bill, which was approved earlier by the House. It will become law if signed by Gov. Dennis Daugaard.
State law does not require permits to own guns, keep them in a home or business or carry them openly. However, the law currently requires that people have permits to carry concealed guns.
Sen. Larry Rhoden, R-Union Center, said there’s no reason to make South Dakotans get a concealed weapons permit as long as they have valid driver’s licenses and would meet the requirements for getting a concealed weapons permit. People have a constitutional right to bear arms, he said.
“I believe this simply restores some of the constitutional rights of the citizens of South Dakota, the law-abiding citizens,” Rhoden said.
Rhoden said some other states have passed similar laws.
However, Sen. Craig Tieszen, R-Rapid City, said he opposes the bill because there’s no relationship between having a drivers’ license and being qualified to carry a concealed handgun. Local sheriffs should continue to have the final say on whether people qualify to get concealed weapons permits, he said.
Tieszen, a former Rapid City police chief, said the South Dakota Sheriffs Association and the South Dakota Police Chiefs Association opposed the bill. While officials in Pennington County issued more than 1,600 permits last year, they also denied 130 applications, he said.
“Support your law enforcement agencies,” Tieszen said.
Sen. Mike Vehle, R-Mitchell, said local law enforcement officials should control concealed weapons permits because they can check whether applicants are convicted felons, have a history of violence or have mental illnesses.
Rhoden said constitutional rights trump any argument for leaving control with local law officials.
“When in doubt, give us our rights,” Rhoden said.
Rhoden said residents going to states that honor South Dakota’s concealed carry permit would still have to get one to take their guns to those states.