The debate — gun owners' rights versus gun control laws — once again took center stage at the Cracker Barrel in Aberdeen, held Saturday morning in the Student Center on the campus of Northern State University.
Rep. Brock Greenfield, R-Clark, said he had never seen so many pieces of legislation related to gun control since he has served in Pierre.
He said the laws are reaction to fears of the federal government trying to create excessive and unnecessary gun control laws.
Greenfield, of District 2, said he is worried gun ownership rights are under siege, especially after President Barack Obama issued 23 executive orders related to gun control.
"We are not all complacent that everything will be OK relative to our Second Amendment rights," Greenfield said.
Sen. Chuck Welke, D-Warner, was less concerned than Greenfield about the situation in Washington, D.C., because no one is talking about taking guns away from people.
Welke said the idea that guns will be taken away from people was rhetoric mostly propagated by the National Rifle Association, which he feels is an extremist organization. Welke said that opinion was probably very unpopular opinion in South Dakota, but that's his belief.
Welke, of District 2, said he owns a number of guns and supports the rights granted by the Second Amendment, but he is not against discussing reasonable gun safety measures.
"I am not anti-gun; I am a Second Amendment person. I believe in everybody's right to own guns, but there are reasonable restrictions that we must place on them," he said.
Reasonable restrictions is a matter for the courts to decide, Welke said.
Background checks to help make sure criminals and mentally disabled people don't have guns and the requirements for a conceal carry permit are reasonable in his opinion, he said.
Gun rights versus gun safety was brought up several times throughout the Cracker Barrel, notably during discussion of the school sentinel bill.
If passed, the bill will give schools the option of selecting teachers and other personnel to carry a concealed weapon to protect against armed intruders. Each person must complete 47 hours of firearms training, the same amount as a police officer. Each school district would have the option to participate in the program. Schools will decide in executive session whether to participate and who carries the weapon.
District 3 Rep. David Novstrup, R-Aberdeen, said one alteration was made to the bill since it was first created. Residents will now know if their school board is considering getting a sentinel, although the sentinel's identity would not be public knowledge.
The bill has passed the House and is now in the Senate State Affairs committee, he said.
Sen. Al Novstrup, R-Aberdeen, said he doesn't think most schools will have a sentinel even if the bill passes, but schools should have the option available if they feel it is needed.
Novstrup, of District 3, mentioned Selby, where the nearest law officer might be 20 or 30 minutes away from a school, as an example of a place that might want to designate a sentinel.
"I don't see anything wrong with letting schools ask the question," he said.
Welke said that even trained military personnel have accidents with guns. Too many things could go wrong, so he is leaning toward voting against the bill.
Rep. Dan Kaiser, R-Aberdeen, said the bill isn't about guns, but is a matter of giving local control to schools. Schools should be trusted to make their own decisions and do what they believe is in their best interests, he said.
Kirk Easton, superintendent of the Warner school district, argued that the bill was bad legislation and was the equivalent of passing a bill that gives schools the right to use duct tape on students to keep them quiet or in their seats. Kaiser, of District 3, brought up the fact that there is a South Dakota law that allows teachers to use reasonable force on students as a counter-argument.
Teachers can legally use duct tape if they wanted to; the option is available, he said. Nobody does it because no one at the schools believes that it is an effective educational technique.
"That's a perfect example of local control," Kaiser said.
Other highlights of the Cracker Barrel included an explanation of the decision to reject federal Medicaid funds, discussion on ACT scoring and a sales tax bill that was killed.