SIOUX FALLS | After years of unsuccessful attempts, supporters of legislation that would allow people to carry concealed handguns without a permit in South Dakota anticipate revived prospects for the conservative prize once GOP Gov.-elect Kristi Noem takes office in January.
The legislation languished under retiring Republican Gov. Dennis Daugaard, but Noem offered support for a so-called constitutional carry law during her campaign. Incoming GOP Sen. Lynne DiSanto, sponsor of a permitless concealed carry bill that Daugaard vetoed, said such legislation is likely in the upcoming session and she's optimistic about its prospects.
"There are a lot of Republicans that are very excited to have a conservative governor," said DiSanto, a state representative who is switching chambers. "I think under a new governor it's very likely to pass."
Daugaard has said the state's current gun laws are reasonable. Right now, it's a misdemeanor for someone to carry a concealed pistol or to have one concealed in a vehicle without a permit. At the end of October, there were nearly 108,000 pistol permits in South Dakota, according to the Secretary of State's office.
Daugaard vetoed DiSanto's proposal in 2017 and also rejected a similar measure in 2012; constitutional carry legislation failed during the 2018 session after he issued a veto threat. Bill supporters have argued that getting a concealed pistol permit can be burdensome.
Backers are likely to get a boost from Noem, who triumphed over Democratic state Sen. Billie Sutton in the November election. Noem in January urged passage of a permitless carry bill.
At the time Noem didn't endorse a specific plan, though her campaign said she supported the policy "in principle." Transition team spokeswoman Kristin Wileman said in a statement this week that Noem won't commit to legislation until she can review its text, but said she's a strong Second Amendment supporter and thinks provisions like constitutional carry can "protect and even strengthen this right for South Dakotans."
"The governor-elect will work to find a way that law enforcement and gun rights proponents can come together around a solution," Wileman said.
Staci Ackerman, executive director of the South Dakota Sheriffs' Association, said the group hasn't discussed 2019 legislation yet. But Ackerman said the organization supported a bill in the 2018 session that allowed permitless carry for state residents with a South Dakota driver's license or identification card; the measure didn't advance out of the Senate.
The 2019 session is scheduled to run Jan. 8 to March 29. Republicans will control both chambers.