SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — On Monday, February 13, the South Dakota House Judiciary Committee heard a pair of bills, both brought by Democrat Rep. Linda Duba, concerning the subject of guns.
The bills, HB 1213 and HB 1227, each met the same fate, a deferment to the 41st day, essentially a death sentence for legislation.
It was not only the bill’s sponsor and their eventual fate they held in common, but also a number of those testifying in support and opposition. For instance, the South Dakota State Medical Association spoke in support of both bills, while the NRA spoke in opposition to both.
As for the bills themselves, HB 1213 was a bill aiming to require gun owners to store their guns, either in a locked container or with a trigger lock.
The bill also outlined a penalty for those who do not, making the infraction a class 6 felony if their failure led to a minor obtaining the gun and using it to commit a crime.
The penalty would not have applied if the minor stole the gun.
A class 6 felony would also have resulted if a gun owner knowingly gave, loaned or sold a gun to a minor, who then used it in a crime.
“I have heard from several gun owners who securely store their weapons,” Duba said, “and they just feel it’s time that we make our homes and our schools and other public places as safe as we can.”
Duba said she expected opponents of the bill to frame it as a gun-grabbing bill but it was not. Rather, she said, it was simply a safe-storage gun bill.
Speaking for exactly seven minutes, Duba laid out data and statistics showing that the implementation of bills like hers reduces deaths caused by minors accessing firearms.
The bulk of the proponent testimony outside of Duba, which included seven others, came from representatives of the South Dakota State Medical Association (SDSMA), Dean Krogman and Jennifer Tinguely.
Krogman said the organization supports anything that makes it more difficult for young people to obtain firearms. “We understand the gun ethic of South Dakotans,” he said, “and what’s changed in that regard is the profile of mental illness.” Krogman recounted to the committee that he bought his first gun at the age of 12: “Things have changed,” he said.
Tinguely, a physician, supported Krogman’s statement and said the bill would help minimize youth suicides and violence. She also noted research showing that the presence of a gun in the home increases the risk of suicide. “Nothing is perfect in this realm, but anything we can do to promote safe gun storage would be much appreciated.”
Comprising the bulk of opposition testimony was former South Dakota legislator and current National Rifle Association (NRA) lobbyist Brian Gosch.
“This bill, although it may be well-intentioned, it’s just really unworkable,” Gosch told the committee. He contended that the inclusion of “knowingly” in the first section of the bill was a problem, asking why someone should be liable if they loan a shotgun to a 12-year-old for hunting, and then the child gets mad and shoots their cousin, arguing the adult might not have known the child would shoot their cousin.
Gosch also complained that the law doesn’t define who an ‘owner’ of a gun is, asking “is it the person who bought it, is it the person who uses it, is it the person who stores it?”
Another issue Gosch had with the bill, titled ‘An Act to require that persons limit access to firearms by minors and to provide a penalty therefore,’ is that it didn’t encompass every possible object someone could use to commit a crime.
“This bill only targets firearms,” Gosch said. “It doesn’t target anything else that may be stored in an unsecured manner that could be used in the commission of a crime. Maybe you leave your car running in a parking lot and it’s not secured and a minor takes that vehicle and then uses it in the commission of a crime — should you have strict liability in that case?”
Offering her rebuttal, Duba highlighted the support of the SDSMA, and pushed back on Gosch’s comparison between unsecured guns and running cars. “Correct me if I’m wrong, but in the state legislature, when we bring a bill, we have to keep it germane to the subject and topic is not about any other types or ways a youth would use something to commit a crime, but specifically regarding firearms,” Duba said.
Following the closure of testimony the committee asked no questions of Duba, the proponents or the opponents, and also did not discuss the bill, with the only action being a motion by Republican Rep. Mary Fitzgerald to defer it to the 41st day. The motion passed 10-0 with three members excused.
Next was HB 1227.
This bill, entitled: ‘An Act to authorize the issuance of extreme risk protection orders,’ would allow a person to petition a court to remove a firearm from someone if there is cause to believe they will ’cause injury or death to the respondent or others, by having access to a firearm.’
Essentially a red-flag law, this bill would allow for the temporary removal of guns from a person. Duba said she was bringing the bill due to the number of gun deaths in South Dakota.
“The rate of gun deaths in the state of South Dakota has increased 61 percent from the years 2011 to 2020 compared to 33 percent nationwide,” Duba said. “In South Dakota, a gun suicide death occurs once every four days.”
Duba said evidence shows that temporarily removing guns from people in crisis can reduce the risk of firearms suicide, in part due to how commonly guns are used in suicide attempts, and their 90% lethality rate when they are used. “Nine out of ten times you’re going to make it,” Duba said, going on to note that only 4% of people die when attempting suicide using other methods.
Krogman again spoke in support of the bill, encouraging its passage. Following his testimony, the committee heard from Jackie Rippert, who took a deep, shaking breath before beginning her testimony.
Eight years ago yesterday, my brother Jeff was the perpetrator of a workplace shooting in Lennox. He took his own life that day, with a gun. He was a veteran who fought a bipolar diagnosis for much of his adult life. At one point, my parents asked him to give them his guns, and he willingly did so. They held onto them to try to keep him safe. If an extreme risk protection order had been available, we would have absolutely requested one. If he was in crisis, we wanted him to have a buffer and time to contact health professionals. However, he could still legally obtain a firearm, and he did, and we did not know this, and the outcome was devastation for multiple families, and lives changed forever. 79% of gun deaths in South Dakota are suicides. I am asking you to give parents and spouses a tool to protect their loved ones from the tragedy of suicide. The person in crisis is informed and involved in the extreme risk assessment process. Now just a minute ago, I told you some facts about my big brother. There are also many good memories of him and stories to tell, and we wanted more time with him. And the people he shot and hurt deserved more time with their loved ones. HB 1227 is comprehensive and it allows for due process. I’m just asking you to please vote in favor of it.Testimony on HB 1227 by Jackie Rippert
Speaking once again in opposition to the bill, Gosch began his criticism of the bill, calling it a gun confiscation bill, and saying it would take guns away without proper standards being met.
Gosch, speaking against the bill, built his first argument on a movie.
“If anybody in the committee’s seen the movie Minority Report with Tom Cruise, it’s a movie about predicting which crimes are going to be committed in the future and then arresting people before they’ve actually committed the crime,” Gosch said. “This bill asks you to do that.”
The next issue Gosch brought up mirrored his problem with the bill that came before: It doesn’t address every possible way someone can attempt suicide. “It only addresses firearms,” he said. “They’re not confiscating any other dangerous objects that an individual could use to inflict harm on himself or others — there’s no taking of knives, vehicles, ropes, explosives, poisons — this is truly just a gun-grabbing piece of legislation.”
Gosch was also critical of a provision that guns owned by a person subjected to an extreme risk protection order could be removed from multiple residences, saying this could lead to other people’s guns being taken away as well.
Another concern that Gosch expressed is that the bill does not do enough to guarantee the safety of guns. “It could lead to lawsuits against law enforcement for broken or damaged firearms if they’re not stored at the proper levels of humidity or lack thereof,” he said.
Another opponent, Florence Thompson, a lobbyist for South Dakota Citizens for Liberty, expressed the idea that perhaps it’s the person in crisis who should be restricted, rather than their guns.
“Guns don’t kill people; people kill people,” Thompson quipped. “It makes no sense to arrest the gun when it’s when it’s the person — or seclude the gun — when it’s the person that you’re concerned about that needs treatment or confinement or whatever.”
The final note of opposition came from a representative of the Unified Judicial System (UJS), which did not take a position on the policy, but noted instead concerns about the resources needed to implement the legislation if the bill moved forward.
This bill once again received no questions or discussion by the committee.
A motion was made by Republican Rep. Mike Stevens to defer the bill to the 41st day.
Speaking on his motion, Stevens said he would not contest the statistics on suicide presented by Duba and others, but that there were issues with the bill that needed to be fixed, and that he didn’t want to vote on a bill that needed work.
The last voice to speak before the vote was Republican Rep. Tyler Tordsen. “It felt a little weird to not hear any questions,” he began. “I can’t speak for the committee, but I read through this a couple times. I had questions typed out — a lot of it got answered in testimony — I really do have due-process concerns with this, I have implementation concerns and I don’t think this bill’s ready.”
The committee voted 11-0 with two excused to defer.