Senator Greenfield Calls Trooper Political Lackey

South Dakota Highway Patrol Major Dana Svendsen testified against Senate Bill 162 Thursday. That bill was Senator Brock Greenfield's (R-2/Clark) attempt to allow certain trained legislators to carry weapons in the South Dakota Capitol during Session as a back-up security force.

Major Svendsen has been in charge of security at the Capitol since 2002, during which time no legislator has suffered an assault or other crime that I know of on Capitol grounds. Major Svendsen testified (starting at 19:10 in this SDPB archived audio) that Senate Bill 162 had numerous flaws. On the technical side, he said SB 162 appeared to have been prepared without consultation with the Attorney General (and Senator Greenfield subsequently confirmed that he had not discussed the bill with the AG or with the Department of Public Safety, of which the HP is a part). Major Svendsen said the bill did not contain funding for the Attorney General's office to administer the training program.

Moving to the heart of the Highway Patrol's concerns, Major Svendsen said SB 162 posed a grave security risk by keeping secret from law enforcement the identity of armed legislators. Officers moving into an active-shooter situation who see unknown civilians firing weapons have to make a split-second decision about those shooters' intent. "This scenario has the potential to end very badly," said the Highway Patrol major. Major Svendsen did not directly address Senator Greenfield's comment earlier in the hearing that he knows multiple legislators who illegally carry guns in the Capitol, but it would appear Major Svendsen and his troopers already face that very dangerous scenario.

Major Svendsen said that the Highway Patrol takes its responsibility for Capitol security very seriously and that it would be a mistake to pass that duty off to legislators. "Anyone can hit a target when they're not under stress," said Major Svendsen, who called into question whether the training called for in SB 162 would be sufficient to address the threats Senator Greenfield targeted. Major Svendsen said troopers undergo continual training, not just target practice, but training in shoot-don't-shoot situations and in dealing with unstable people. Troopers are trained to be constantly mindful of the fact that every situation they enter has a gun involved, since they carry guns into every situation. "Bad people will try to take that gun away from you and use it against you," warned Major Svendsen. "If a person isn't trained for that or trained to have that mindset, who knows what could happen."

To these valid administrative and security concerns, Senator Greenfield rebutted thus:

The gentleman who just came forward has a job to do, and that job is to create doubt about... a bill that the administration doesn't agree with [Senator Brock Greenfield, rebuttal, Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, South Dakota State Legislature, Pierre, South Dakota, 2015.02.12, timestamp 23:30].

Senator Greenfield hears practical security concerns from the man who has successfully managed Capitol security for over a decade and dismisses them as mere political lackeyism.

Senator Greenfield proceeded in his rebuttal to ignore most of the points Major Svendsen raised. The Senator said he would be happy to consult with the Attorney General, but whined (I don't think that verb exaggerates) that he didn't hear any opposition to SB 162 until after 4 p.m. the day before this hearing, leaving "no time for me to work with them." Senator Greenfield claimed that since the Department of Public Safety didn't take a position on the school gunslinger bill in 2013, he could reasonably assume that the Department of Public Safety wouldn't take a position against a bill arming civilians in a building over which they have direct responsibility for security.

Senate Judiciary wisely killed this ill-thought-out bill Thursday. Senator Greenfield showed not just a thoughtless disregard for expert opinion but a serious and selfish disrespect for the law enforcement officers who will risk their lives to keep him safe.

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Senate Judiciary yesterday heard and wisely killed Senate Bill 162, Senator Brock Greenfield's (R-2/Clark) bad idea to authorize legislators to carry concealed weapons in the State Capitol.

In advocating his bill, which Greenfield said he thunk up all on his lonesome without consulting with the Department of Public Safety whose troopers currently protect the Capitol, the senator from Clark offered this evidence of dangerous and arrogant lawbreaking by his colleagues:

...In my 15 years here I have come to learn that sometimes legislators break the law. Believe it or not, they break the law by carrying their concealed weapon into the Capitol, because for them, I guess they feel that their lives are paramount and that the law prohibiting us to carry is secondary [Senator Brock Greenfield, testimony on Senate Bill 162 before Senate Judiciary, South Dakota Legislature, Pierre, SD, 2015.02.12, timestamp 17:32]

Senator Greenfield is testifying to the fact that multiple legislators think they are bigger than the law. Senator Greenfield is testifying that he is aware of multiple instances of Class 1 misdemeanors putting the public and law enforcement officials at risk. (Luckily for Senator Greenfield, it's only a crime not to report felonies, not misdemeanors.)

Given that Senator Greenfield has alerted us to this criminal risk to public safety, perhaps the state troopers who protect the Capitol and all of the citizens therein now have justification to stop and frisk legislators. If people are bringing guns into the Legislature, law enforcement should stop them and punish them according to the law.

And legislators, if you can't get your priorities straight, if you go to work on the people's dime thinking the law is secondary to your whims and fears, maybe you're in the wrong line of work.

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It wouldn't be a South Dakota Legislative Session without lots of talk about guns. We have five bills easing or outright repealing our concealed weapons rules. Three have passed the House.

Awaiting its first hearing is Senate Bill 162, which reads like a version of the unwise and thankfully unused school sentinel law passed in 2013. Senator Brock Greenfield (R-2/Clark) wants legislators to be able to carry concealed weapons "for purposes of deterrence and defense against any violent attack against the Legislature, its members, its staff, and members of the public in attendance of any meeting of the Legislature."

Yes, because there are so many violent attacks on the Capitol in Pierre, and because our legislators are best trained and equipped to respond to crime with deadly force.

Senator Greenfield would create a whole bunch of bureaucracy to allow certain legislators to pack heat in the Capitol. The Attorney General would have to approve each request, and the permit-seeking legislators would have to take firearms training.

SB 162 would also keep the names of the pistol-permitted legislators secret. As I did with the school gunslinger bill, I find such secrecy offensive. If I visit the Capitol, I want to know exactly which legislators are carrying weapons so that I can be alert to the possibility of some legislator going off half-cocked. If Pierre is so dangerous, if our civil institutions have so egregiously failed, that we must allow legislators to carry firearms, they should carry those weapons openly, on their hips, to constantly remind us of the imminent danger all around.

But we elect our legislators to legislate, not play security guard. We pay taxes for qualified law enforcement officials to patrol the Capitol and protect our leaders. We don't need more Capitol gunslingers. Our legislators should all put their guns down and focus on public policy.

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Menno Schukking, vice-president of the Northern State University Student Association, led off the Q&A at Saturday's Aberdeen crackerbarrel by asking legislators if they thought Senate Bill 181 was a good idea. SB 181 would appropriate $3.2 million to the Board of Regents and $736 thousand to the vo-tech schools to support a tuition freeze for the coming fiscal year. Schukking noted that SB 181 would be a good first step toward flipping the state support/student support ratio from the current 40/60 split to the 60/40 split it used to be.

None of the Republicans on the panel would bite. Both District 3 Novstrups, Senator David and Rep. Al, are sponsors of the bill but simpered about having to wait and see how the final budget came out. District Senator Brock Greenfield said the tuition freeze isn't a backburner item but then left it on the backburner by saying there are lots of interests to balance. Only District 1's Democratic Senator Jason Frerichs took a stab at setting priorities, suggesting that if the Governor can make a priority of spending $4 million on self-insuring state properties, we ought to be able to set a similar priority now on higher education.

Schukking is in Pierre with student leaders from campuses across the state today for the Student Federation Higher Education Days. They face a tough push on the tuition freeze, since the Governor opposes it and the Regents won't fight for it. Schukking and his young colleagues will try to get legislators to commit to the funding priorities in SB 181 and three other bills:

  • Senate Bill 91, which seeks to boost the undercapitalized needs-based scholarship created in 2013. Schukking tells me that the scholarship fund, from which Regents can only take interest, only has enough principal to generate $5,000 in interest for needs-based scholarships at Northern. SB 91 originally proposed a $200K boost; Senate Appropriations amended out that funding Friday to allow the bill to move through debate while we await budget data and legislators willing to actually set a priority.
  • Senate Bill 92 would do the same for the Critical Teaching Needs Scholarship. The commitophobic Senate Appropriations did the same thing to it Friday, knocking the appropriation from $200K to $1.
  • House Bill 1147 is Governor Dennis Daugaard's proposal to boost the merit-based Opportunity Scholarship. The Governor is willing to spend $1.274 million to cut costs for our best students by not quite three percentage points.

Not on the Student Federation's happy list is House Bill 1206, whose sponsor list is almost entirely mutually exclusive of the sponsor list of SB 181. Almost none of HB 1206's sponsors are willing to sign on to a tuition freeze as a priority for higher education, but they will sign HB 1206 to make carrying concealed weapons on campus a priority, because (a) it sounds tough, and (b) it doesn't cost the state any money... well, at least not until we have to start spackling bullet holes and hauling away bodies.

The Student Federation opposes HB 1206. Evidently they believe students are better served by a discussion of real investment in the very real problems of college affordability and student debt instead of the fantasies of every student as his or her own John Wayne or Jason Statham. Let's hope they can spend Higher Education Days talking more about green than guns.

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Betty Olson has her name on another gun bill! Whoo-hoo!

Actually, Senator Brock Greenfield (R-2/Clark) is leading the way on Senate Bill 162, a proposal to allow legislators to carry concealed weapons in the State Capitol.

Freeze, Brock—tell us the last time you or any other legislator experienced a threat in the Capitol that would have warranted response with a firearm. If you can cite any such instance of clear and present threat, tell us the last time state troopers were not available to handle said threat.

Conservatives like Greenfield, Olson, and its House sponsors DiSanto, Latterell, Russell, and Stalzer should revolt at a bill like Senate Bill 162. Isn't a situation where only the government has guns exactly the tyranny gun nuts dread?

Imagine I approach Senator Corey Brown at the Capitol for a sincere Cory-to-Corey chat about how his efforts to undermine Independents and ballot initiatives are unjust (and about how he spells his name wrong). After a few moments of looking past me, he opens his jacket, exposes the pistol holstered under his shoulder, and says, "I'm sorry—are you talking to me?" Legislative immunity won't excuse Brown's shooting me, but I'm not sure I like the power imbalance.

If we're going to let legislators swagger about the Capitol packing heat, doesn't fairness (not to mention Sean Connery in The Untouchables) demand that we let everyone carry a gun? Ah ha! In comes House Bill 1183, where Olson and Greenfield switch sponsor slots and call for repealing the entire ban on concealed weapons in the Capitol. I think they're just trying to trick us into "compromise."

But HB 1183 exposes another aspect of gun-advocate thinking that I don't get. HB 1183 removes the Capitol from the general ban on guns in courthouses, but then it writes a new statute that makes it a misdemeanor to carry a pistol in the Capitol unless you carry it concealed, under a concealed weapons permit. Why would you make it a crime to openly carry a gun into the Capitol but not to sneak a gun in in your britches (or, in Senator Olson's case, your mountain lion-skin purse)?

The State Capitol, our great Temple of Democracy and Reason, is no place for guns. Both House Bill 1883 and Senate Bill 162 are expressions of unwarranted fear and a lack of faith in our institutions of civil society. Senate Bill 162 is gun control at its worse, where only outlaws and legislators have guns. (I invite you to discern which are which.)

p.s.: I can imagine a similar critique of Senate Bill 105, in which Senator Betty Olson and numerous co-sponsors asked that legislators be given access to the Capitol complex tunnels. If legislators get to venture into the underworld, so ought we all! Senator Olson withdrew SB 105 yesterday; I say bring it back, bigger and better, for all South Dakotans!

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Attorney General Marty Jackley held a press conference in Sisseton Friday to discuss the details and conclusions of the state's investigation of the November 22, 2014 murder-suicide that shocked Sisseton and briefly put the entire tri-state area on alert. AG Jackley confirmed that Colter Arbach shot and injured Karissa DogEagle and shot and killed Vernon Renville Jr., Angela Adams, Candice Labelle.

DogEagle was Arbach's girlfriend. In the wee hours of November 22, he punched her three times. DogEagle's three friends took her outside to a car. Arbach followed and fired 18 rounds from a .223 rifle and three rounds from a 12-gauge shotgun. Arbach shot Renville, Adams, and Labelle dead at the car; he shot DogEagle several times in the back as she returned to the house. According to this shooting diagram released by the Department of Criminal Investigations, Arbach shot himself in the driveway.

Arbach shooting crime scene diagram, prepared by Special Agent Jeff Kollars, SD Department of Criminal Investigation, 2014.11.22 (click to enlarge).

Arbach shooting crime scene diagram, prepared by Special Agent Jeff Kollars, SD Department of Criminal Investigation, 2014.11.22 (click to enlarge).

The detailed information Attorney General Jackley released Friday raises three questions:

  1. AG Jackley said nothing (at least nothing published) about his office's failure to positively identify the dead shooter at the scene, an error that led law enforcement to unnecessarily alarm the public with warnings that Arbach was on the loose, armed and dangerous.
  2. The crime scene diagram identifies Item #22 at the foot of Arbach's corpse as a "Beretta 12 gauge semi-auto shotgun." The diagram and the Attorney General identify the other weapon, found in the front passenger seat of the white GMC, only as a .223 caliber rifle. Why does the AG specify the shotgun but not the rifle that did most of the rapid-fire killing? Is there a magic word we're not using to avoid grief for our NRA donors?
  3. This crime scene diagram offers significant detail about a crime about which there has been little public doubt. Why has Attorney General Marty Jackley not released a comparable crime scene diagram from his investigation of Richard Benda's death? With conflicting evidence and widespread public doubt about the plausibility of the official finding of suicide, it would behoove the Attorney General all the more to release the crime scene diagram and other details, like those released Friday in the Arbach case, to assure the public that law enforcement has done its job.

Attorney General Jackley's openness in the Arbach shooting is admirable, if incomplete. AG Jackley should revisit the Benda shooting with similar openness.

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The Governor's Office of Economic Development and Madison's Lake Area Improvement Corporation score another coup, bringing Iowa sexy bra manufacturer Best Darn Guns (should a company really force us to swear?) to town:

Best Damn Guns website, http://bdguns.corecommerce.com, screen cap, 2014.11.13

Best Damn Guns website, http://bdguns.corecommerce.com, screen cap, 2014.11.13

In a brilliant example of vertical (or is it horizontal, or cross-your-heart?) integration, the LAIC announces it is also bringing the closely associated Wilt Manufacturing, whose subsidiary Wilt Wire and Fabrication does something with Wire EDM, which is obviously connected to the the supporting industry of making underwires.

Or not. Once I get past the crass and gratuitous disembodiment and oversexualization of the female body, I realize Best Darn Guns makes gun parts. But their advertising makes clear the real psychology behind South Dakota's gun nuttery. Carrying guns and now building local economic development makes us real men and gets us action.

Welcome to South Dakota, Best Darn Guns and Wilt Manufacturing! We look forward to your billboards.

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Gun Nut Shelley Gidding is throwing an NRA fundraiser in Sioux Falls next week. No, really, she calls herself a Gun Nut.

A Girl and a Gun Women's Shooting League holds a launch party Thursday, October 9, 6–9 p.m., at Prairie Berry in Sioux Falls. Yes, Prairie Berry, because what goes better with firearms than alcohol? The launch party will include a raffle, proceeds of which go not to the club but to the NRA Women's Network... which doesn't seem to need much in the way of donations, since, like the entire "A Girl and a Gun" national organization, it is sponsored by Smith & Wesson.

Gidding has had this project in the works since last spring, after attending the national conference of the "A Girl and a Gun Women's Shooting League (also sponsored by Smith & Wesson).

Shelley and her husband Caleb write a lot about guns on Gun Nuts Media, their shooting sports news site... also sponsored by Smith & Wesson.

Hang on, I'm having trouble telling the difference between this shooting league launch and a Pampered Chef sales meeting.

But hey! Have some wine, and help Smith & Wesson sell more product.

 

 

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