Lawmakers say they were threatened over gun billPIERRE — Two lawmakers who said they were threatened with smear campaigns if they didn’t support a bill that would have allowed people to carry concealed weapons without a special permit nonetheless helped kill it Friday.
By: VERONICA ZARAGOVIA, The Associated Press
PIERRE — Two lawmakers who said they were threatened with smear campaigns if they didn’t support a bill that would have allowed people to carry concealed weapons without a special permit nonetheless helped kill it Friday.
The bill, sponsored by Rep. Don Kopp, R-Rapid City, would have eliminated a concealed weapons permit requirement for people who comply with other handgun laws. Kopp said he introduced the bill because he had received a barrage of emails recently from constituents asking that the regulation be lifted.
The bill received support from the South Dakota Gun Owners, and two lawmakers said they received threats from the group if they failed to support it. Rep. Peggy Gibson said members told her they would “come after” her if she voted against the bill. The gun rights group — officials for which could not be reached for comment — has a controversial history in the state.
“They send letters saying if you don’t vote for bills, they’ll ruin your political campaign by sending postcards to your constituents that you don’t support gun rights and legislation,” said Gibson, D-Huron.
Republican Reps. Gene Abdallah, who said he also received threats, and Brian Gosch said they voted against the bill in part because of the group’s support for it.
“I won’t vote for anything associated with the South Dakota Gun Owners,” said Abdallah, of Sioux Falls.
Gosch, of Rapid City, said, “The merit of the bill is something I support, but I can’t support this bill because one backer is the South Dakota Gun Owners.”
The House Judiciary Committee voted the bill down 7-5. Both Gibson and Abdallah say they have an A-plus rating from the National Rifle Association, which gives grades to lawmakers according to their support for the right to bear arms.
Gibson said she has nothing against gun ownership in general and described her gun collection and her husband’s passion for hunting. But she said the permit requirement is in place to keep criminals and mentally ill people from carrying concealed loaded weapons.
Edward Rambazzo, who spoke on behalf of South Dakota Gun Owners, said murder rates have dropped or stayed low in the four states — Alaska, Arizona, Vermont and Wyoming — that don’t require permits for concealed weapons.