Committee shoots down guns-on-campus bill

A legislative committee shot down a proposal to allow guns on South Dakota’s college campuses Tuesday.

Supporters of Senate Bill 177 said it would uphold the Second Amendment rights of college students and provide protection against a mass shooter.

“These folks are adults,” said Sen. Ernie Otten, R-Sioux Falls. “These are the same folks who have the right to vote, who sign up to protect us in the military.”

He and Rep. Lance Russell pointed to other states, such as Oregon and Colorado, that they said have similar laws.

SB 177 would have forbidden universities and technical schools from “abridging the ability of any person to carry or possess a firearm in accordance with state law.”

But a parade of opponents testified against the measure, saying it was unneeded, unwanted and dangerous.

The director of the Board of Regents warned that the bill was poorly written and could have unintended consequences. It could stop universities from banning guns in laboratories where metal is forbidden, said Jack Warner. It could also make South Dakota universities ineligible to host NCAA tournaments, which require gun bans in arenas.

Representatives of the student bodies of the state’s major universities also testified against the bill. The student governments of Northern State University, South Dakota State University and the University of South Dakota all voted to oppose SB 177.

Members of the Senate Judiciary Committee agreed.

Sen. Jean Hunhoff said she was persuaded to oppose the bill by the opposition of the students, the people who would be affected.

“We have students here who are representing their institutes of higher learning,” Hunhoff said. “They are the ones telling us we do not want guns on campus.”

The committee voted 5-2 to kill SB 177.