PIERRE | A South Dakota legislative panel decided Monday that businesses should keep the right to ban guns in vehicles parked in their lots.
By an 8-4 vote, the House Commerce Committee killed a bill that would have prohibited businesses from preventing employees or customers from having guns in their vehicles.
Shawn Lyons, executive director of the South Dakota Retailers Association, said business owners do not oppose the constitutional right to bear arms, but that right should not trump private property rights.
"This bill takes away the right of a business to make its own decision," Lyons said.
But the measure's main sponsor, Rep. Lance Russell, R-Hot Springs, said workers sometimes need access to guns to protect themselves, so businesses should not be allowed to fire employees who have guns in their cars or trucks. Fourteen other states have passed similar measures, Russell said.
He noted that a man delivering pizzas in Rapid City a few years ago likely saved his own life by pulling a gun when he was attacked by people who had ordered a pizza. The pizza business then fired the man because he had violated company policy by carrying the gun, Russell said.
The South Dakota bill would have required the guns in vehicles parked on company property to be locked out of sight. Any employee fired for having a legal gun in a vehicle could have sued the business to regain employment and lost wages.
Lobbyists for a number of business organizations opposed the bill. Many said the measure would create problems for companies with federal contracts that forbid guns at those companies' worksites.
"We think we're in the best position to make these decisions, not the Legislature," said Kitty Kinsman, representing the Rapid City Area Chamber of Commerce.
But Rep. Stace Nelson, R-Fulton, said the U.S. Constitution's Bill of Rights guarantees that an individual's rights take precedence over business rights.
"We want to disarm law-abiding Americans? Why?" Nelson said.
Rep. Scott Parsley, D-Madison, said he opposed the bill because supporters have pointed to few problems arising from bans on guns in parking lots.
"I think we have a solution looking for a problem that doesn't seem to exist," Parsley said.