Senator John ThuneFor many South Dakotans, responsible firearm ownership is a significant part of life. Hunting is not only a large part of our state's culture, it is a major economic engine that generates a great deal of revenue for our state as well as local businesses. This, in addition to my respect for the Second Amendment, is why I am committed to upholding the right of individuals to bear arms.
South Dakotans have long known that firearm ownership reduces crime and saves lives. In keeping with the Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms, our state has a process through which gun owners can obtain a permit to "concealed carry," a practice that is widely recognized as an effective way to reduce crime.
Data shows that states with concealed carry laws have significantly lower rates of violent crime. For example, research has shown that for every year a state has a concealed carry law on the books, the murder rate declines by three percent, rape by two percent, and robberies by over two percent.
I recently introduced a bipartisan bill in the Senate to make it easier for responsible South Dakotans to carry their permitted concealed firearms in other states. Currently, there are 23 states that recognize concealed carry permits issued by South Dakota, which is a result of agreements between South Dakota and these states.
Since other states do not have reciprocal agreements with South Dakota, my bill would allow residents of any state carrying a permitted concealed weapon to do so in any other state that has a concealed carry law. This would eliminate the need for states to enter into complicated, confusing compacts.
The bill would not establish a national concealed carry law, nor would it nullify state laws banning concealed firearms. South Dakotans, or residents of any other states with lawful concealed weapons, would not be allowed to carry their firearms into states where concealed firearms are illegal.
Late last year gun owners won a significant victory when the Interior Department ruled that individuals could carry concealed weapons into national parks and wildlife refuges in states where concealed weapons are legal. I wrote to then-Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne urging this change, and I will work to ensure that the change is carried out under Secretary Ken Salazar.
I believe that concealed carry laws have an important place in the responsibility of states and individuals to responsibly exercise Second Amendment freedoms. Careful exercise of Second Amendment rights is part of our South Dakota way of life, and I will continue working to ensure that remains the case in the years to come.