SD, ND, MT lawmakers push for permitless carry bills
February 23, 2017
"A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed."
~ 2nd Amendment of the Constitution of the United States
Aside from Larry the Cable Guy flexing his biceps in a cut-off shirt, the right to bear arms is a mandate taken seriously by the majority of rural citizens, farmers and ranchers. Unique from many regulated activities, carrying weapons is one of the few actions expressly protected by the Founding Fathers.
This week legislators in North Dakota, South Dakota and Montana moved steps closer to allowing citizens freedom to arms by supporting legislation on permitless carry. Also referred to as "constitutional carry," laws like these proposed have been enacted in 14 other states and cite what supporters feel is an statutory right to carry without fees or license.
In North Dakota a bill sponsored by Rep. Rick Becker (R-Bismarck) passed the House last week by an overwhelming 83-9. The bill provides for concealed carry of a firearm without a permit to anyone who is not prohibited by law from owning a Class 2 concealed carry license, and who has had a North Dakota issued identification for at least one year. It also requires weapons carriers to notify law enforcement officers of their concealed weapon during a traffic stop.
"Overall, the sentiment of the people of North Dakota is to realize that gun restrictions aren't very helpful, and are taking us away from the Bill of Rights," said Becker. "People are having a greater understanding that a 'gun free zone' means criminals only. The only people who abide by the rules and regulations are the people who aren't going to be committing a crime.
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"People who want more rules and regulations have good intentions, but they make no sense at all," Becker said.
The North Dakota bill will move to the Senate, where Becker feels it will also has a high likelihood of success, then to the desk of Governor Doug Burgum for an anticipated signature.
In Montana last week a similar bill passed both the House and Senate and went to Governor Steve Bullock for consideration. Sponsored by Rep. Bill Harris (R-HD 37), the bill would allow any resident who is legally allowed to possess a firearm the ability to carry a handgun for self-defense without having to obtain a permit. Currently constitutional carry is allowed in rural areas of Montana but not urban. This ruling would open the right to all areas of the state.
"Having the option of carrying a concealed weapon for a person eligible to possess a firearm is not only consistent with the 2nd amendment of the U.S. Constitution, but in many situations, is vital to our safety and the safety of others," said Harris, in recorded testimony introducing the bill in the House Judiciary committee in January. "Persons carrying out mass shootings are cowards. Many similar shootings could be prevented or preempted by persons with a concealed handgun."
Harris noted that two years ago he introduced constitutional carry legislation which passed the legislature but was vetoed by the governor. At that time there were four states that had a constitutional carry or a similar law on their books. Today there are 15, with 20-22 more states that have proposed them in their legislatures. The 15 include Alaska, Arizona, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Maine, Mississippi, Missouri, Vermont, West Virginia and Wyoming, with Arkansas, New Mexico and Montana having constitutional carry with limitations, and New Hampshire's governor signing similar legislation just as TSLN went to press.
"That is how fast things have changed; people are realizing the need for this law," said Harris.
Harris said he is hopeful the governor will sign the legislation this time. He noted before his last veto he had made incorrect assumptions about the bill that Harris hoped had been thoroughly clarified.
Meanwhile, as of press time, in South Dakota the House is waiting to take to vote a bill clarifying permitless carry in the state, sponsored by Rep. Lynne DiSanto (R-35).
Currently, permitless carry is already legal in South Dakota, as long as the individual is not prohibited from possessing a firearm. However, according to text from the National Rifle Association, "Under current law, if a firearm becomes covered by a coat or if a woman prefers to carry a firearm for self-protection in her purse, he or she would need to possess a concealed carry handgun license. This legislation gives South Dakotans the freedom to choose the best method of carrying for them, based on their attire, gender and/or physical attributes. This legislation would also keep in place the current permitting system so that people who obtain a permit could still enjoy the reciprocity agreements that South Dakota has with other states."
Other pro-gun bills are streaming through the region's legislative branches with relative success. The North Dakota House passed by a wide margin the armed responder in schools bill. It would create a pilot program allowing 10 schools to start and evaluate programs to place a concealed weapons carrier on school property. In Montana the House is currently hearing a bill that would halt prohibition of legal gun carry in restaurants. The Montana Senate is hearing a bill that would prohibit the use of any state funding or personnel to enforce federal regulations that seek to ban the ownership or possession of firearms or magazines. The South Dakota House passed a bill that would provide a grace period after the expiration of a concealed handgun permit and a warning ticket for carrying a concealed pistol with an expired permit. The Wyoming House is hearing two bills that would allow concealed carry permittees to legally carry on college and university facilities without written permission, and provide for the same in any meeting of a government entity.
Becker said like many of the gun laws proposed, his legislation would have a limited impact on the day-to-day lives of North Dakotans, except to the extent they will have less fees to pay and forms to complete. However, "It's also about taking a stand and getting closer to the Bill of Rights."
The legislators agree the increase in gun bills are a public reaction to being fed up with mass shootings and threats of terrorism.
"I'm sure that's why people are driven in that direction; it makes sense," said Harris. "It just gets down to self-defense.
"And it's a constitutional right to start with, so it's not like we're asking for very much."