Law-abiding people should be allowed to carry and possess guns on the campuses of South Dakota's public universities, a state House committee recommended Wednesday.

The State Affairs Committee voted unanimously to pass HB1261, which would guarantee people the right to carry or possess firearms on college campuses. The schools also would be prevented from expelling students or firing employees for having a gun on campus.

The panel later voted unanimously to kill a competing measure, sponsored by the Board of Regents, which sought to ban guns on campus."> Rep. Thomas Brunner, R-Nisland, the main sponsor of the bill allowing guns on campus, said most mass shootings in recent years have occurred in areas where guns are prohibited. Murderers have been able to kill many people because no one else was armed and able to stop them before law officers arrived, he said.

If more people carried guns, they could stop mass murderers before they kill so many people, Brunner said. The guard who shot and wounded a gunman at the New Life Church in Colorado Springs in December helped save lives, he said.

"Should a person have less freedom and safety than anyone else simply because he or she attends college?" Brunner said.

Nancy First, South Dakota coordinator of Second Amendment Sisters, said a handgun is the best defense for a woman walking at night on a college campus or anywhere else.

"The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun," First said.

The only opponent to the bill was Jim Shekleton, legal counsel for the state Board of Regents, who said allowing students and faculty to carry guns could make campuses more dangerous.

If other people exchange gunfire with a madman in a classroom or sports arena, more people could be hurt or injured in the crossfire, Shekleton said. When law officers arrive, they might mistakenly shoot the wrong person if several people in the room are holding guns, he said.

"A free-fire zone is more likely to do more harm than good," Shekleton said.

The best way to prevent mass shootings on campuses is to improve the response when students or others exhibit disturbing behavior, Shekleton said. Last year's shooting at Virginia Tech was caused by a breakdown in identifying and handling a disturbed student, he said.

"By the time the weapon is drawn, it's too late," Shekleton said.

The defeated bill, HB1086, would have banned guns from campuses except for military training, ceremonial uses and classes involving firearms training. Shekleton said 21 other states have similar bans on guns on campuses, while many other states restrict weapons on campus to some extent.

He said Utah allows weapons to be carried on university campuses.

Brunner said he has children attending college, and he thinks allowing law-abiding citizens to carry weapons would improve campus safety

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