I don’t agree with Steve Sibson politically but when I was District 20 State Senator in the 1990s, he came to me with a really good idea.

Steve applauded Logan Luxury Theater’s decision not to allow kids under 17 admission to R-rated (and above) movies without the permission of their parents but lamented the practice of big box stores selling the same R-rated (or worse) movies to minors without parental consent.

He asked me to introduce legislation to ban the sale of such movies to kids. I agreed and it wasn’t hard to get co-sponsors, many who couldn’t believe this dichotomy had even been allowed to exist. The bill was scheduled for hearing in front of the Senate State Affairs Committee when three California lobbyists from the MPAA (Motion Picture Association of America – the outfit that rates the movies) showed up to testify.

They spoke in lawyerly terms about how this bill was the thin end of the wedge in the destruction of free speech, the diminution of cinema and the cultural decline of America. The bill was defeated on a 12-1 vote with only me in favor, even my fellow co-sponsors on the committee didn’t vote for it.

Fast forward to 20 years later and many retailers’ company policy calls for routine “carding” for the purchase of R-rated films with no damage to the fundamental freedoms of our republic at all.

The Legislature passed a law this session allowing anyone to openly carry firearms. The Second Amendment reads, “A well relegated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.”

Passed at a time when the United States had no permanent standing army, instead relying on state militias for protection, it seems clear that the right existed in order to provide a citizen national guard for our common defense. However, the Supreme Court ruled (District of Columbia v. Heller, 2008) that the right is an individual one so we won’t re-litigate history here.

The question persists: Is allowing just anyone to publicly brandish a weapon a good idea?

If I were in the legislature I would have voted to allow only those with an enhanced carry permit (see South Dakota Codified Law 23-7-58) to openly carry firearms. The problem with the Second Amendment is anyone can own a gun; there are no competency requirements as there are, for example, to drive a car.

My parents owned a 30-06 rifle and a .38 pistol. Dad was a country boy and had been an Army infantryman in Korea, qualified as a sharpshooter. Mom knows nothing about guns but still has the .38.

The use of a firearm always involves potentially lethal force so the person handling the weapon should be competent in its utilization and knowledgeable of its operation as well as the laws governing the proper circumstances of firearms use. That’s what SDCL 23-7-58 requires for the enhanced carry permit.

Several summers ago, a man paraded with a rifle at the corner of Seventh and Main mere steps from the Corn Palace. The police were called; the responding patrolman cordially asked the man what the devil he was doing. The man replied that he had a Second Amendment right to wield a weapon in public. The officer agreed but pointed out it was making the tourists rather nervous.

Having never seemed to consider this possibility, the man immediately decided he had made his point and went home peaceably, no citation was issued and no arrest was made. Gun advocates made and have a point with this legislation.

However in the interest of public safety, the comfort level of law enforcement, in recognition that no right is unlimited, the rules of enhanced carry permits should apply in the case carrying firearms in public. I hope the Legislature acknowledges and rectifies this situation in the 2020 session.