While chairing House State Affairs this morning, Representative Larry Rhoden (R-29/Union Center) hit the literal panic button. In the midst of debate on House Bill 1156, a bill to allow individuals with enhanced permits to carry concealed firearms in the Capitol, Chairman Rhoden activated whatever alarm legislators have available in the committee rooms:
A South Dakota lawmaker whose committee was considering a bill to allow concealed guns in the Capitol says he hit a panic button during debate just to see how quickly authorities could respond.
Republican Rep. Larry Rhoden, who supports the legislation, said Monday the response time was about five minutes – longer than he’d thought it would be [“South Dakota Lawmaker Hits Panic Button to Test Security,” AP via KSFY, 2017.02.06].
Two problems here:
- False reporting to authorities is a Class 1 misdemeanor, worth up to one year in jail and a $1,000 fine.
- Rhoden predicated his conclusion, that law enforcement took longer than he thought they would, on the false assumption that the South Dakota Highway Patrol would fall for his trick. The Highway Patrol did not:
The South Dakota Highway Patrol superintendent says authorities were properly notified seconds after a lawmaker whose committee was considering a bill to allow concealed guns in the Capitol hit a panic button to test the response time.
Superintendent Col. Craig Price said Monday that after the notification, a supervisor looked at the video monitoring system and saw that an armed plainclothes state trooper was already in the room. He says a uniformed officer responded to verify there was no emergency [AP, 2017.02.06].
So not only did Chairman Rhoden break the law for the sake of political theater, but he also knocked a hole in the thesis that we need civilians prancing around the Capitol with guns. Highway Patrol had a trooper in the room who probably would have drawn a bead on a real troublemaker before Chairman Rhoden could find his button. In today’s illegal drill, Highway Patrol was able to assess almost immediately that there was no need to mobilize deadly force.
I won’t risk a Class 1 misdemeanor, but I’ll ask you to consider this hypothetical: suppose Chairman Rhoden or another proponent of HB 1156 had decided to test law enforcement’s response by shouting “Gun!” instead of hitting the panic button. Suppose some concealed-carrier had been in the committee room and, eager to put his pistol to use, had drawn and whirled around looking for the fake threat. Suppose that plainclothes trooper sees that gun. Imagine all that can go wrong in those two seconds.
Alas, the committee, falsely alarmed on multiple levels, voted 10–3 to advance HB 1156 to the House.