PIERRE (AP) – Gov. Dennis Daugaard on Thursday threatened to veto bills that would allow guns in the state Capitol and let people carry concealed handguns without a permit if the proposals are approved by the Legislature.
The Republican governor praised South Dakota's "reasonable" gun laws, saying that some states are much more restrictive. Daugaard's position is a steep obstacle for lawmakers pushing the bills.
"I really feel that our process is not burdensome," Daugaard said of the state's permit requirements. "It's doing an important job, and our laws are very reasonable."
In explaining his opposition, Daugaard also cited the 125 people last year in Minnehaha County, the state's most populous, who were denied permits, including for drug offenses, previous weapons violations and domestic violence arrests. They shouldn't be able to carry a concealed weapon, he said.
It is a misdemeanor under state law for someone to carry a concealed pistol or to have one concealed in a vehicle without a permit.
Bills that would allow what's known as constitutional carry haven't yet had a hearing this session. A similar proposal passed through the House in 2015, but died in a Senate committee.
Republican Rep. Lynne DiSanto, who is sponsoring constitutional carry legislation, said she believes this year's Legislature is more conservative, a benefit for gun bills.
"I would say the Legislature is prepared to come back on 'Veto Day' and override that veto," DiSanto said. "He can go ahead and veto it, and we'll be back to see him again in March."
Twelve states currently allow the practice, according to a spokesman for the NRA Institute for Legislative Action.
At the end of December, there were roughly 96,000 active regular and enhanced permits issued in South Dakota, according to the Secretary of State's office. In 2016, 1,460 new enhanced permits were issued.
The bill allowing people who have an enhanced permit to bring concealed pistols into the Capitol passed through the state House this week. The measure would require people to register in advance with security.
Similar legislation has failed in the past.
The bill, which would also include qualified law enforcement officers and qualified retired officers, must pass the Senate.
Senate Majority Leader Blake Curd said he thinks the bill probably has a better chance of passing this session because it contains the enhanced permit requirement.
House Republican Leader Lee Qualm, the bill's main sponsor, said he would continue pushing for the bill despite the governor's opposition. He said an override attempt is a possibility.
There are no metal detectors or other security checks at the Capitol entrances to enforce the current prohibition on most people carrying guns in the building. The South Dakota Highway Patrol, which provides security at the Capitol, opposes the bill.
Daugaard said he's satisfied that the patrol is doing a good job protecting people in the building.
A House lawmaker whose committee was debating the measure this week hit a panic button just to see how quickly authorities would respond.
Highway Patrol Superintendent Col. Craig Price said in a statement that the Capitol protective services division was notified within 25 seconds of the alarm being pressed. A supervisor then looked at the video monitoring system and saw that an armed plainclothes state trooper was already in the room. A uniformed officer responded to verify there was no emergency.