Voters in South Dakota will not have the opportunity to amend the state constitution and add further protections to the right to keep and bear arms after a Republican-controlled committee sent the proposed bill into legislative limbo on Tuesday.
SJR506 was a pretty straightforward amendment to the existing language in Article 6, Section 24 of the South Dakota Constitution, which simply states that “The right of the citizens to bear arms in defense of themselves and the state shall not be denied.” The language of the proposed amendment authored by Sen. Julie Frye-Mueller would have offered some specifics on no-go areas for lawmakers, and is pretty close to an amendment successfully adopted in Iowa in 2022 as well as one under consideration in the Kansas legislature:
The right of the citizens to bear arms in and possess ammunition and accessories common to the use of such arms, for the security and defense of themselves and the state, for the security and defense of their family members and their real and personal property, for lawful hunting, for recreational purposes, or for any other lawful purpose shall not be denied, nor shall a permit, license, registration, fee, or tax be required for the acquisition, possession, or carrying of such arms, ammunition, or accessories, including supplies for the reloading of ammunition.
No law may permit the confiscation of firearms, ammunition and accessories, or supplies for the reloading of ammunition, except those actually used in the commission of a felony and then only after conviction, and those removed from a person adjudicated by a court to be a danger to self or others as a result of a mental disorder or mental infirmity.
Any restriction on the right set forth in this section is subject to strict scrutiny.
Despite the fact that Republicans hold every seat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, SJR506 was unanimously defeated earlier today in a procedural move that ensures it will not be brought up again this session, sending it to the “41st legislative day”, which doesn’t actually exist.
Opponents expressed concerns that the measure, if passed, would have stopped business owners from preventing employees or customers from bringing a weapon into their establishment.
They also expressed concerns about removing the tax on firearms and ammunition. One legislator said they just rejected a resolution eliminating the sales tax on food.
Other opponents said the measure would make it challenging to remove weapons from people charged with felonies or domestic violence.
There’s nothing in the proposed language that would take away the rights of property owners to prohibit firearms from their premises if they choose to do so, and while the amendment would have indeed made it “challenging” to strip someone of their Second Amendment rights without a conviction or an adjudication of mental illness, if a judge determines that a suspect is a danger to the community (or themselves) they always have the option of keeping them behind bars until their trial or committing them to a mental institution for treatment. Besides, under the history, text, and tradition test spelled out by the Supreme Court in Bruen, even bans on gun ownership for those convicted of some felonies may not be constitutional, and the proposed language in South Dakota simply spells out that being accused of a crime is not a high enough bar to strip someone of their Second Amendment rights.
It sounds like the main objection to the proposed amendment was the removal of taxes on firearms and ammunition, but lawmakers could have easily found a new revenue stream if voters had approved the changes to the state constitution. Instead, voters won’t even get the chance to decide for themselves whether or not those changes should be made thanks to the Republicans in the Senate who took it upon themselves to make sure the amendment won’t be on the ballot this November.
At a time when Democrats in D.C. and blue states are running roughshod over our Second Amendment rights, it’s vitally important that conservatives take a stand in favor of our right to keep and bear arms. South Dakota gun owners should be furious at the Senate committee for refusing to allow the people to decide if the amendment was worth supporting, as well as giving the forces of gun control an undeserved victory in a state that generally prides itself on its robust gun ownership and support for the Second Amendment.