The Student Federation, representing elected student governments from all of South Dakota's public universities, is seeing some success for the bills for which it lobbied during Higher Education Days last week.
- Senate Bill 91, funding for the Regental needs-based scholarship, is still alive, although Senate Appropriations had to wipe out the specific dollar figure to keep the bill in play.
- Ditto for Senate Bill 92, funding for the critical teaching needs scholarship.
- House Bill 1147, the Governor's proposal to increase the Opportunity Scholarship from $5,000 to $6,500, made it out of House Appropriations intact. The bill doesn't mention the $1.274 million that increase will cost; legislators can vote for it and let the scholarship default to the statutory prorated amount if existing funding can't support the new maximum amount.
- I'm not sure how the tuition freeze is faring; Senate Bill 181 appears to have been lost in the shuffle in Thursday's Senate Appropriations hearing.
The Legislature is flatly ignoring the testimony of the Student Federation on House Bill 1206, which would allow students 21 and older to carry concealed weapons on campus. Most students agree that school is no place for guns. The gun-tooting (if no -toting?) members of House Local Government voted 8–5 to say sure, let's open the door to guns at our universities. (Augustana, Dakota Wesleyan, stay gun-free, and you have a recruiting pitch to make here.) Northern State University's Student Association sent out this call to action, not arms, to its campus Friday:
Despite strong testimony from the Board of Regents and the South Dakota Student Federation, the House Local Governance [sic] Committee passed House Bill 1206, which would allow the concealed carry of pistols on public university campuses. As NSU Student Association we voted unanimously to oppose this bill, as it takes away the local control from the Board of Regents and the individual universities. The presence of guns around heated discussions and alcohol will lead to tragic consequences. Please contact your legislators to oppose this bill.... [G]uns should not be present in our classrooms, student center, or anywhere else on campus [Menno Schukking, NSU Student Association Vice President, e-mail to Northern State University campus community, 2015.02.13].
The Florida, Texas, and Montana legislatures are advancing similar campus-concealed-carry bills. Speaking to the Florida bill, Daniel W. Webster of the Johns Hopkins University for Gun Policy and Research says allowing more guns on campus will lead to more gun violence:
“The bill is obviously based on the idea that a) college students are sitting ducks for individuals who carry out mass shootings on college campuses because campuses are “gun free zones” and b) good guys or gals with guns can save themselves and others by taking out the shooters,” Webster says in an e-mail statement.
In reality, he says, those instances are extremely rare, and college campuses — where students are almost constantly surrounded by stressors, violent behavior and substance abuse, along with the development of schizophrenia or other mental disorders — aren’t the place to house lethal weapons.
Webster also says that in cases of a potentially lethal attack, students are just as likely to shoot innocent bystanders in the melee of a shoot-off as they are to shoot the attacker, as is sometimes the case even with trained police officers.
More importantly, an “across-the-board” law like SB 0176 would prevent students from being able to make a decision about whether or not to attend a school where concealed guns are legal.
“Very few academics or academic administrators want students carrying concealed firearms on campus and most strongly oppose such policies,” Webster says.
“The best research on the impact of so-called Right-to-Carry laws has shown that the policies do not deter violent crime but simply lead to more gun violence. I have no reason to believe that this finding wouldn’t hold for the college campus environment” [Morgan baskin, "Florida State Senate to Vote on Concealed Carry Weapons Bill," USA Today, 2015.02.13].
Idaho lifted the ban on concealed weapons on its university campuses in 2014. In response, the Idaho university system is now spending $3.7 million to beef up security, with no additional funding from the state government that imposed these costs.
$3.7 million—that would pay for the increases in all three scholarships and half of the tuition freeze South Dakota's Student Federation advocates. Instead, South Dakota's House Local Government Committee would rather make them pay for an increased security risk, just to maintain legislators' NRA ratings.
Bonus Wishful Thinking Over Facts: In Thursday's House Local Government hearing, Rep. Lee Qualm repeated the cliché, "The only way to get rid of a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun."
Brian Roesler, the man who stopped the workplace shooting in Lennox Thursday, ran right at the shooter and tackled him. Roesler did not have a gun.