Rep. Hal Wick wanted to get people’s attention.
Wick, a Sioux Falls Republican, attracted a national media circus after introducing a striking bill Monday: a mandate that every South Dakotan purchase a gun.
The bill is a stunt – Wick wants to dramatize his opposition to the mandate that individuals purchase health insurance in the 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.
“If the federal government can order every one of us to buy health insurance because we need medical care, it makes just as much sense for us to require everyone to have a weapon to provide for their protection,” Wick said Tuesday.
Since the bill went online Monday morning, it has been referenced in national media such as the Drudge Report and Politico. Wick said he has received interview requests from Fox News, MSNBC, NBC News, the National Review and “another dozen” media outlets.
All this for a bill Wick himself believes is unconstitutional and won’t support.
“I probably would not ask anybody to vote for the bill,” he said. “I feel this would be overstepping the bounds of their personal rights. Some people would never want to own a weapon. Some people, their faith wouldn’t allow them to.”
Wick said the national media attention – “more than I ever expected” – has helped him make his argument against the health insurance mandate.
“If it makes news across the country, perhaps more legislatures will pass resolutions that will ask that Congress remove the mandate from the health insurance law and start all over,” he said.
The bill, HB 1237, requires every South Dakota citizen at least 21 years old to “purchase or otherwise acquire a firearm suitable to their temperament, physical capacity, and personal preference sufficient to provide for their ordinary self-defense” within six months of turning 21. It has an exception for people forbidden by law from owning firearms.
In 2001, the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System survey estimated that 56.6 percent of South Dakotans own guns – the fourth-highest rate in the country and almost twice the national rate of 31.7 percent.
Sen. Bruce Rampelberg, R-Rapid City, said he co-sponsored the bill not to make a point about health care reform but to start a discussion about gun rights.
“I don’t think this is what the people of South Dakota want,” Rampelberg said. “But I do think there is a benefit in elevating the discussion so the people of South Dakota have a feeling that we are responsible for being good citizens and taking care of ourselves when it’s not possible for law enforcement to be there on the scene.”
Both Rampelberg and Wick said they believe a state where everyone did own a gun would be safer than the state is today.
Wick’s bill has been referred to the House Judiciary Committee. A hearing date has not been set.
Contact David Montgomery at 394-8329 or email@example.com