Two gun control bills fail in South Dakota legislative committee hearings

Gun Rights

PIERRE — Two bills that would’ve increased gun control measures for youths and people in crisis failed in a South Dakota House of Representatives committee Monday.

Rep. Linda Duba, D-Sioux Falls, sponsored both bills. The first bill, HB 1213, would have required the safe storage of firearms so minors could not access them and would have created a penalty if a gun owner was found in violation of the proposed law. The second bill, HB 1227, a so-called red flag bill, would have allowed for the state to take away firearms from someone in a mental health crisis through a extreme risk protection order.

Duba, armed with statistics about youth suicide and firearm deaths in South Dakota and gun violence nationwide, and proponents from the South Dakota Medical Association told the House Judiciary Committee the state needs to be proactive in its gun control measures, especially as the mental health crisis continues to worsen.

“We do know that unfortunately in the state of South Dakota … that youth suicide is on the rise,” she said when speaking about the extreme risk protection order.

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Nearly 80% of all firearm deaths, be it adults, teens and children in South Dakota, are from gun suicides, Duba said. Firearms are the third leading cause of death for children and teens in South Dakota.

Duba added it was the Legislature’s duty as well to protect school children and to keep guns properly stored, saying it “provides a level of protection by making sure all gun owners are responsible gun owners.”

Other proponents of HB 1213 included a mother to a student, who attended Harrisburg High School in 2015 and was at the school when former principal Kevin Lein was shot by then 16-year-old Mason Buhl.

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“This isn’t about taking guns away from anybody,” the mother, Emily Thomas, said. “It’s just about securely storing them, so things like this don’t happen to us.”

Opponents spoke about a liability issue when creating a penalty for not safely storing firearms away from minors. Anyone in violation of the proposed bill, if it became law, would have faced a class six felony if the owner of the firearm had knowingly given it to a minor and the minor used the firearm in a crime, or if the firearm was not safely stored by the owner and a minor used said firearm in a crime.

When it came to the red flag bill and the creation of an extreme risk protection order, opponents also argued it could be understood as a “gun-grabbing” piece of legislation without mechanisms to take away other dangerous weapons from individuals in crisis.

“It allows firearms to be taken from a respondent, before they have a right to be heard by a judge,” said Brian Gosch, a lobbyist for the National Rifle Association.

However, Stephen Manlove, a psychologist from Rapid City, said most suicides, while the person could be suffering from depression, tend to be impulsive actions.

“I think taking away something that people can use impulsively would really stop a lot of suicides that really didn’t need to happen, because they could have been treated, but they didn’t see any hope,” he said.

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