A Surprising Twist on South Dakota Concealed Carry

Fourteen Twenty-six months ago, I wrote that we ought to change the law here in South Dakota to permit concealed carry by permanent residents and not just citizens. I even contacted a handful of legislators with the request that this at least be brought up during the 2009 legislative session. My writing and requests were to no avail.

Now, it would seem, someone has decided to pursue this same issue through a different channel:

A man who emigrated to the United States from the United Kingdom more than 30 years ago filed a lawsuit Monday against the state of South Dakota after his application for a concealed weapon permit was denied.

Under South Dakota law, a person must be a U.S. citizen in order to qualify for a concealed weapon permit, but Wayne Smith contends that provision violates the U.S. Constitution.

Smith, represented by the American Civil Liberties Union of South Dakota, filed his lawsuit in federal district court.

Smith and the ACLU also asked a federal judge for an injunction that would prohibit county sheriffs from denying concealed weapon permits based on the state’s citizenship requirement.

Very like the scenario which I was looking at, from the standpoint that a permanent resident should be permitted to defend himself/herself. As I had noted at the time:

In South Dakota, it is currently legal for permanent residents to purchase shotguns, rifles and pistols (as long as these individuals have had green cards for at least 90 days). The corollary to this would be to allow for those same permanent residents to legally carry a concealed weapon for the same purpose of self-protection which is afforded to citizens.

Several other states currently allow permanent residents to carry concealed. I see no reason why South Dakota cannot make itself welcoming to soon-to-be-citizens in the same manner. If the path from green card to citizenship was a matter of a few days and a mountain of paperwork, I am not certain that I would be concerned. However, when one considers that the path from green card to citizenship is several years, it becomes a matter worth pursuing.

I do not know if the gentleman who has filed suit is pursing citizenship or not. I’m not certain that a leaning one way or the other would make a difference to me, though that might make a difference to a judge.

Representation by the ACLU on this matter gives me slight cause to pause in full support of Mr. Smith’s action. It is interesting, however, that this is being put forward as a constitutional issue, rather than an issue of consistency in the law–as I had previously argued.

This is definitely something I’ll be watching.

One last thought for now. I doubt the request for an injuction will work–given that Mr. Smith would need to show something along the lines of probable cause for harm should the injunction not be in place. Considering that non-residents have largely not had concealed carry permits for the last 8 years, it seems a stretch to ask for this now.

11 thoughts on “A Surprising Twist on South Dakota Concealed Carry

    1. CAH,

      As you well know, they are more than the messenger. My uneasiness stems from the fact that I’m on the other side of things from them a large majority of the time. For instance, if this is an attempt to equate non-citizenship with citizenship, then I have cause for concern.

  1. Should this man win his case in court I think the State of South Dakota should then simply eliminate the permit process for concealed carry. This will comply with the court and do the exact opposite of what the ACLU wants.

    1. Rick,

      Not a bad way to handle it. Perhaps the legislature could preemptively address this issue and avoid all the cost of litigation.

  2. FYI, this same issue was litigated in WA in 2009 and the case was settled with the result that permanent residents are now eligible for CCW.

  3. Thirty years as an LPR and still hasn’t applied for citizenship? Does not sound like an alien who should be allowed to own, much less, carry a firearm.

    1. Fed,

      True enough. If he really wants the privileges of citizenship, he’s had more than enough time to secure them. However, I don’t know what might have kept him in this state. Would he lose an inheritance in Great Britain if he switched, etc. I guess I’m saying that there is probably stuff we don’t know that should be factored in to the equation.

  4. Isn’t this an issue of which of our constitutional rights as citizens we would like to offer as privileges to visitors? What constitutional rights do non-citizens have? I am not saying that they don’t have rights, just wondering which rights, and how and who determines them. The few times I have been abroad, I was very much aware that I probably had left most of my rights at the border, and therefore I tread very lightly.

    In my opinion, the ACLU is too frequently on the wrong side of what I would consider rights for non-citizens, so in this case, as Michael pointed out above, if they are trying to remove distinctions between citizens and non-citizens, I have concern. On the other hand, I’m pretty open minded about letting others have and carry guns, just as long as I can do the same.

    1. NT,

      I do think that this is not a constitutional issue so much as it is one of equity/consistency under the law. Foreign nationals do have rights but they are not the same as ours, as you have noted. I would say that this area needs to be clarified, but am thinking more and more that this suit may be the wrong way to do it.

      Seeing that the law was changed to its present wording as a response to 9/11, it would seem that enough time has passed for the legislature to look at the issue with a little less emotion and more concern for practical matters. Such an approach might leave just about everyone happy with the results.

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