Noem calls for end to carry license fees

AP Photo/Stephen Groves File

South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem says she wants to get rid of the fees associated with concealed carry licenses this legislative session, and during her State of the State address on Tuesday called on lawmakers to scrap those fees along with others that she says are hurting businesses and residents of the state.

First of all, let’s eliminate fees associated with starting or renewing a business with the Secretary of State in South Dakota. In 2020, the theme of my State of the State was “Open for Business,” and we are continuing that commitment today. We are already among the most business-friendly states in America, and with this step, we will make it even easier to do business here.

Let’s also eliminate all fees for concealed carry permits in the state. We will pay the costs for federal background checks, as well. It will not cost you a penny to exercise your Second Amendment rights in South Dakota.

Three years ago, Constitutional Carry was the very first bill that I signed as Governor. We guaranteed the right of our people to keep and bear arms. Together, we will continue to defend this key constitutional liberty.

Finally, although we don’t have many taxes in South Dakota, I am proposing that we eliminate a ridiculous tax. Did you know that we have a bingo tax? This is largely a tax on our elderly populations and veterans. I’m proposing that we get rid of it, and this is just the beginning.

Ditching the mandated fees for carry licenses, which run anywhere from $10-$60 for a five year license (South Dakota has three different tiers of licenses available), would be a great move for South Dakota to make. But as the governor mentioned, South Dakota’s already a Constitutional Carry state, so the measure may not have as much impact as it would have it had been passed before permitless carry.

In fact, similar legislation was approved in Indiana last year, and when that “shall issue” state ended its fees more than 25,000 residents applied for their license in the first week. I don’t think South Dakota would see anything close to that figure if they remove the mandated fees since licenses aren’t required in order to carry in the state.

In fact, one of the “problems” (if you want to call it that) for pro-Second Amendment politicians in a state like South Dakota is that there are already a lot of strong laws on the books. How do you follow up a big item like Constitutional Carry? Well, besides the continued fees for carry licenses, one of the biggest flaws in South Dakota law in terms of the right to keep and bear arms is that lawfully possessed firearms are still banned from college and university campuses across the state.

Why did Noem not include that in her list of legislative priorities? We don’t know for sure, but the last time the issue came up for a vote in 2019, it unfortunately didn’t get much support from the Republican majority.

Senate Bill 122, which would prohibit the Board of Regents and Board of Technical Education from adopting policies that would restrict or limit a person’s ability to carry a firearm on campus, was defeated in the Senate on a 10-24 vote. The Senate’s decision came after nearly 50 minutes of debate on whether allowing guns on campuses would give students more safety.

Republican Sens. V.J. Smith of Brookings, Bob Ewing of Spearfish, and Jordan Youngberg of Madison, who represent districts with universities, urged their fellow senators to oppose the bill.

Smith pointed out that the bill had one proponent, but a long line of university staff and students spoke in opposition during the committee hearing last week. Opponents cited concerns that included the safety of students in classrooms and dorms, complications for Title IX cases and the inability to host NCAA sports events. The state should be encouraging young people to come into the state, but the bill would likely cause parents to steer their children away from attending South Dakota’s public universities, Smith said.

I have to say, those were absurd objections at the time and they’re equally silly now. Almost a dozen states, including Texas, Colorado, Utah, and Kansas, have established campus carry policies, and not one of them have had to deal with declining enrollment or an NCAA boycott as a result.

If Second Amendment activists in South Dakota want to enact a campus carry law, it looks they’re going to need to soften up the opposition among Republican lawmakers. In the meantime, however, more modest (yet significant) improvements to the state’s gun laws appear to be well within reach this year.

Jul 03, 2022 8:30 AM ET