South Dakota: New State Gun Laws Show Power of One-Party Control

by Maggie Clark, PEWStates.org  |  published on April 19, 2013

New this year: South Dakotans can now carry concealed pistols while riding their snowmobiles. And Arkansas and North Dakota residents are now free to bring their guns to church, as long as their pastors say it’s alright.

A dozen other states also have eliminated some gun restrictions this year. Four states have gone in the opposite direction, tightening their gun laws in the wake of the mass shooting last December in Newtown, Conn.

The speedy passage of gun laws in the states reflects the fact that in many of them, one party dominates the political landscape. Following the 2012 elections, a single party now controls both the governor’s mansion and the legislature in a whopping 37 states—sometimes with a nearly unbeatable “supermajority.” The result has been a torrent of new laws related not only to guns but other issues ranging from abortion to taxes.

The action in the states stands in stark contrast to the situation in Washington, where split party control has slowed gun-related legislation—and all other legislation—to a crawl. The U.S. Senate, led by Democrats, began debate Thursday on a bill expanding background checks, making gun trafficking a federal crime and boosting federal funding of school security programs. But it is unclear whether that measure—or any other gun-related proposal—will clear the House, where Republicans hold the majority.

“At the same time Washington, D.C. is getting more gridlocked, we’re seeing this historic moment of supermajorities in the states and legislation is speeding through the statehouses,” said Thad Kousser, professor of political science at the University of California at San Diego. “Government wouldn’t be working well if, in states where they wanted more or less gun regulation, that wasn’t reflected in the laws being passed.”

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