Press "Enter" to skip to content

24 Senators Reject Fearmongering, Kill Guns-on-Campus Bill

The South Dakota Senate listened to students and professionals at our public post-secondary institutions yesterday and killed Senate Bill 122, which would have forbidden the latest effort by conservatives in the Legislature to promote guns-guns-everywhere (and ancillarilly amplify their attack on higher education).

SB 122 would have forbidden the Board of Regents and the Board of Technical Education from restricting firearms in any way on our public university and vo-tech campuses. SB 122 wasn’t just a ban ban; it prohibited “any rule, regulation, policy, standard, or other directive that limits or restricts the right of a person to carry or possess a firearm” on campus. SB 122 meant that schools couldn’t enforce any sort of registry or gun check-in or lock-up procedures in dorms even if they went against the best available evidence and decided to let students imperil their lives by carrying guns on campus.

But gun nuts hate evidence; they prefer the usual fear tactics:

Bad guys are always going to have guns,” Senator Phil Jensen, a Rapid City Republican, said. “Having a rule that you can’t have guns on campus isn’t stopping all of the mass shootings we’ve had at schools, universities, gun-free zones.”

Senator Stace Nelson, R-Fulton, said firearms are a right guaranteed, in the South Dakota Constitution.

“It’s Article 6, Section 24,” Nelson said. “And I will quote: Right to bear arms — The right of the citizens to bear arms in defense of themselves and of the state shall not be denied.”

Russell had the final word: “If in the next year, between now and the legislative session, we have a shooting on one of these campuses in one of these large halls, and there are 20 or 30 killed, my conscience is clear” [Bob Mercer, “Senators Shoot Down Bill That Would Ban S.D. Campuses from Restricting Firearms,” KELO-TV, 2019.02.19].

Senator Lee Schoenbeck (R-5/Watertown) took the floor to throw the gun-absolutists’ fearmongering back in their faces:

…He added that firearms are especially dangerous in an environment of heavy alcohol consumption and potential domestic disputes between young couples.

“If you’re going to put them in a setting where this happens, you just need to understand that you’re in favor of shooting kids,” Schoenbeck said [Sarah Mearhoff, “SD Senate Shoots Down ‘Campus Carry’ Bill,” Rapid City Journal, 2019.02.19].

USD President Sheila Gestring, the Board of Regents, our vo-tech schools, the SDEA, the South Dakota Police Chiefs, and students from USD, SDSU, and School of Mines testified against this guns-on-campus foolishness in committee last week. The only proponent was pro-gun extremist Jordan Mason of Rapid City, head of South Dakota Gun Owners.

Every student government association at our Regental institutions opposed SB 122, including USD’s:

USD Student Government Association, passed an emergency Senate legislation at last week’s meeting, opposing SB 122. According to the resolution, students, faculty and administrators have reservations with firearms in a college setting, especially mixed with alcohol.

“Alcohol plays a large factor in the college experience, regardless of location, and firearms and alcohol should never coincide with one another. Especially at an institution of learning that our students call home,” the resolution states [Lexi Kerzman, “Senate Bill 122 Moves Past Committee Hearing, Colleges Concerned,” Volante, 2019.02.12].

The fears expressed by Senators Jensen and Russell are, of course, unfounded. Keeping guns off campus keeps them safer than many other places:

These gun-free policies have helped make postsecondary education institutions some of the safest places in the country. According to the U.S. Department of Education, the number of homicides on U.S. college campuses is typically less than 25 deaths per year. Additionally, the department has placed the overall homicide rate on college campuses at .07 per 100,000 persons. In comparison, the homicide rate in the United States for persons aged 17 to 29 is 14.1 per 100,000 persons, a rate 200 times that in the college population [Andy Pelosi and John Johnson, “The Important Work of Keeping Guns Off Campus,” American Association of State Colleges and Universities: Public Purpose, Spring 2014, p. 23].

The only Senators from college or vo-tech towns who voted for SB 122 were Rapid City gun radicals Jensen and DiSanto and Sioux Falls arch-cons Stalzer and Sutton. Otherwise, Senators representing campus districts joined the solid 24-Senator majority in killing SB 122 and rightfully leaving it to their campus constituents to determine whether they’ll allow deadly weapons on campus.


  1. Korey Jackson 2019-02-20 19:40


    Those Senators on the Judicial Committee who voted “Aye” should receive stern lectures.

    I suppose, though, their “ayes” did not hurt their NRA ratings and campaign contributions.

  2. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2019-02-20 21:01

    I’ll be curious to see, Korey, if any of the nays get backlash from the NRA. It is worth noting that the NRA put no lobbyist in the room; only South Dakota Gun Owners. NRA got its permitless concealed carry; perhaps their work is done here for the Session.

  3. leslie 2019-02-22 15:04

    Well NRA in SD is controversial because Trump’s Treaury Dept ruled (coincident with Russian operative Butina’s indictment) that NRA’s source of Trump campaign funds was shielded from disclosure. Thinkprogress Summer 2018. Collusion? Obstruction?

  4. o 2019-02-22 15:23

    Has the indictment of Russian operative Butina taken some of the bite out of the NRA’s bark . . . especially given that there may be other shoes to drop in the NRA being manipulated by Russia scandal?

  5. Korey V. Jackson 2019-02-22 17:07

    I don’t know if the NRA has lost any bark.

    The NRA did put out a call for action Wednesday to support SD HB 1056 (State Preemption), prohibiting any county, township, or municipality from restricting guns within their jurisdictions.
    A NRA lawyer testified at Wednesday’s Senate State Affairs Committee hearing in support of HB 1056. Proponents see HB 1056 as a clarification of state gun preemption statutes in place since 1983, and admit that it does further strengthen the state’s new constitutional carry law.


    A proponent also pointed out that Nebraska has no similar preemption law, which permits Omaha to further restrict guns within their municipality.

    There were no opponents at Wednesday’s hearing. Only Senator Kennedy expressed opposition at the hearing. Senator Kennedy supports county, municipality, and township rights to know fully “what is going on within its confines.”

    Yesterday the Senate voted overwhelmingly, 31 to 3, to pass HB 1056. The only nays were Senators Nesiba, Wismer, and Kennedy.

    I have no idea if the 31 Senators voting aye were influenced in any fashion by NRA supporters in their vote.

    I am left to ponder how the Earp brothers and other local law enforcement officers would have handled Tombstone or Dodge City differently if they were similarly restricted restricted back in the 1870’s and 1880’s. Or, for that matter, Deadwood in the early days.

    Interestingly, even today, Deadwood has an ordinance prohibiting patrons of establishments serving alcohol from bringing their firearm onto the premises.$fn=default.htm$3.0$vid=amlegal:deadwood_sd

  6. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2019-02-24 08:16

    Unfortunately, I’m inclined to look at the bulk of gun-nut bills in this year’s Session and conclude that not one legislator is thinking about Maria Butina and Paul Erickson while listening to the NRA, taking NRA money, and casting votes.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.