A South Dakota law denying concealed carry weapon permits to non-citizens was enacted in the wake of the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, when states were looking for ways to tighten security and guard against future attacks, Secretary of State Jason Gant said Thursday.
Gant provided history on the 2002 law change after it was challenged Monday in federal court by the South Dakota chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union.
"It had tremendous support at that time to make sure only U.S. citizens were receiving the permits," Gant said. "It had bipartisan support along with several other agencies."
At the time, Attorney General Mark Barnett, the South Dakota Police Chiefs Association, the South Dakota Sheriff's Association and the South Dakota Shooting Sports Association all supported the change. Gant said the measure passed without opposition or a dissenting vote at any level.
Other states including Iowa, Wyoming and Montana have a lower standard of allowing legal U.S. residents to apply for permits, as opposed to full U.S. citizens living in the states with a green card.
In the suit filed Monday, Wayne Smith argues that he should be allowed to receive a permit as protected by the Fourteenth Amendment's equal protection clause. Smith, of Sioux Falls, has been a lawful permanent resident since 1979 after moving to the United States from the United Kingdom.
Smith is not alone in his request.
David Cohen of Meade County said his wife, Chris, wants a concealed carry permit for her 9 mm Glock handgun; but she is originally from Scotland and has not become a U.S. citizen since moving to the United States 20 years ago.
"The challenging part is I keep a gun in the car, but if she needs the car, she can't drive with it, because that'd be against the law," David Cohen said. "I don't know why South Dakota is doing this; it's kind of ridiculous."
With more than 7 percent of the state population holding a concealed carry permit, Gant said his office will be ready to distribute any rule change that could come out of the upcoming legislative session.
"This is a great opportunity to talk about the procedures and educate the public," he said. "It's interesting to see how many people have permits. We have a strong tradition of hunting and Second Amendment rights here in South Dakota."
Contact Nick Penzenstadler at 394-8415 or firstname.lastname@example.org