Bob Mercer is right: the freshman legislators who slapped together Senate Bill 97 are cruising for a Constitutional bruising. Led by rookie Senator Jeff Monroe (R-24/Pierre), a group of gun-happy legislators want to prioritize the Second Amendment over the First by making it a Class 1 misdemeanor (Class 1—that's the harder one, year in jail, $2000 fine) for you to mention to anyone else that someone you know owns a gun.
Specifically, SB 97 makes it illegal for anyone to make public in any way the "name, address, location, telephone number, e-mail address, or other electronic contact information of the person who owns or possesses a firearm." As Mr. Mercer sagely notes, that language thus makes it a crime to do any of the following:
- tell people you gave your son a nice shotgun as a present;
- publish or broadcast an advertisement for a gun shop or gun show (if First Stop Guns wants to advertise here on the blog, I'd have to say no, because an ad would have to include some kind of contact information; heck, that link just got me a year in jail under SB 97);
- report to police that an armed individual is approaching your local school (that gunman, like some recent mass shooters, may own that gun perfectly legally, and SB 97 says that if Person X owns that gun legally, you can't say, "Person X has a gun").
Mercer chalks up SB 97 as a rookie mistake... a harmful and reckless rookie mistake:
I realize Sen. Monroe and his supporters on his bill, SB 97, in the Legislature won’t enjoy reading this. But click on this link SB97P to read the Monroe bill, and consider what the legislation says from a common-sense perspective. I understand why the legislators backing the Monroe bill want to protect the identities of owners of firearms. But I don’t know what problem they are trying to cure through a new state law, because South Dakota doesn’t have gun registration, and concealed-carry permits already are protected as confidential information under state law. My guess is the legislators behind this bill — Monroe, Begalka, Ewing, Jensen, E. Otten, Hoffman, Ecklund, Greenfield, D. Haggar, L. Heinemann, Hickey, May, Miller, Nelson. B. Olson, Rounds, Russell and Stalzer – signed up as Second Amendment advocates but have no idea what their legislation really would do. Some of these lawmakers are in their first year, and some are very experienced. There’s a valuable lesson we learn at a young age when we learn to shoot: Be absolutely sure, before you pull the trigger, where your bullet will wind up. That rule applies in lawmaking too [Bob Mercer, "The Monroe Doctrine," Pure Pierre Politics, 2013.01.20].
Senate Bill 97 is what you get when lawmakers make decisions based on knee-jerk Second Amendment absolutism and not thoughtful consideration of the actual language and impacts of the legislation to which they affix their names. As Mercer notes, there is no problem requiring a legislative fix here. Some lazy legislators are just trying to boost their NRA scores, with little thought to the needless harm they would do to the First Amendment.
Eager readers have noted to me that Rachel Maddow talked to Planned Parenthood MN-ND-SD's Sarah Stoesz Friday night. Stoesz talked about how the folks who work at the Sioux Falls Planned Parenthood clinic live in constant fear because their names are on the Internet. They face real bullying and threats, even though all they are doing is providing perfectly medical services and advice.
If there's no reason to protect the identities of my friends at Planned Parenthood, there's no reason to make it a crime to mention that Jeff or Bob or Leslie has a gun. Let's kill Senate Bill 97 quickly and get back to legislation that might solve some problems.