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The legislature earned South Dakota the wrong kind of national attention with their new gunslinger law.
The legislature earned South Dakota the wrong kind of national attention with their new gunslinger law.

Legislature Not Helping SD Tourism Do Its Job

Mar 21, 2013


Thank goodness for SDSU and March Madness. South Dakota needs something to clear from the national headlines the embarrassment wrought on our state by our own Legislature.

We made the New York Times, CNN, the Huffington Post, Fox News, the BBC, and Emergency Management with House Bill 1087, the new school gunslinger law. (The bill text specifies that the newly authorized gunslingers be called school "sentinels"; I refuse on principle to this Marvel-Comics marketing-speak and the fantasy-hero complex that lies behind this nomenclature.) To observers around the country, we have declared, "We're so afraid we can't even hear our educational experts telling us almost unanimously that they don't want guns in our classrooms."

For the record, not one professional educator testified in favor of the school gunslinger bill. Nine superintendents of districts in and around the Sioux Falls metro said publicly at a Chamber forum last week that they don't anticipate their school districts seeing a big need for HB 1087 in their districts. Supt. Don Kirkegaard told the NY Times that he doesn't see any evidence that even the isolated schools in his sprawling Meade County School District would be safer with armed teachers.

Even if no school in the state takes advantage of this unwise policy, the Wild West gun ethos that plays so well in our legislators' minds undoes South Dakota's image elsewhere:

... it’s easy to imagine a situation in which a heroic teacher with a gun takes a crazed gunman down, action-movie style, because we’ve seen that movie many times. But in the nonfictional world, where real schoolchildren live, it’s much easier to envision amateur shooters spraying bullets as wildly and ineffectively as, say, New York City police officers, and getting themselves and others killed.

We are not in Deadwood anymore, and who would want to be? [Lawrence Downes, "Welcome to Deadwood," New York Times: Taking Note, 2013.03.08]

Who would want to be in Deadwood? It's hard to counterprogram lines like that ("Come to Deadwood—no, really, you won't get shot!")... but we bring it on ourselves. As long as we elect legislators who think that schools need more guns, that women can't think on weekends, and that economic development incentives boost wages and workforce (not to mention the Legislature's classic headline-making belief that global warming comes from astrological forces), South Dakota Tourism will struggle to keep our brand polished.


Editor's Note: Cory Heidelberger is our political columnist from the left. For a right-wing perspective on politics, please look for columns by Dr. Ken Blanchard every other Monday on this site.

Cory Allen Heidelberger writes the Madville Times political blog. He grew up on the shores of Lake Herman. He studied math and history at SDSU and information systems at DSU, and is currently teaching French at Spearfish High School. A longtime country dweller, Cory is enjoying "urban" living with his family in Spearfish.


10:21 am - Thu, March 21 2013
Steve Benoit said:
I couldn't agree more that the Wild West mentality of SD legislators is not only intellectually backwards but also harmful to the state's image. Having lived in Texas all my life - and having dealt with the same macho stupidity for as long as I can remember - I suggest that the SD state of mind begin evolving into something more modern and cosmopolitan. The lawmaker troglodytes and their narrow minded supporters are a public embarrassment!
12:44 pm - Thu, March 21 2013
Ed Goss said:
As you say Steve about the lawmaker troglodytes and their narrow mined supporters are a public embarrassment, THE SAME GOES FOR WHAT CORY CALLS THE " professional educator" cuz their are times they are a public embarrassment.
WOW, Now watch the comments. Just because educators think they are professional, why do they think they are the only ones that are right???? I guess I'm not educated even though I was taught by a "professional educator"
03:51 pm - Thu, March 21 2013
mikeyc, that's me! said:
Welcome to South Dakota- Land of wide streets and narrow minds.
05:21 am - Fri, March 22 2013
Ed, you seem to be trying to provoke us with word games. You and I can cite various examples of individual teachers doing dumb or downright criminal things. We can also find examples of individual legislators dumb and criminal things. But I'm talking here about the Legislature using its public mandate to act on behalf of the entire state in a way that undermines the image of the entire state.

I invite you to provide a counterexample of a professional educator embarrassing South Dakota in the national and international press with an action carried out on behalf of the entire state. In other words, show me something that South Dakota's teachers do, as a whole or as a majority, that makes headlines outside our state and would make a reasonable outside observer think, "Wow, what's wrong with South Dakota"?
05:50 am - Fri, March 22 2013
Ed said:
Well cody I was very young when one of my Grandfathers died and one of the things he said to me and I find it still plays out today some 73 years later and if you are looking for that example here is his quote "If the shoe fits where it"
03:33 pm - Fri, March 22 2013
Cliche from Grandpa misses the point. Please offer an example of professional educators, acting as elected representatives of the entire state, doing something that brings national/international embarrassment to South Dakota.
03:34 pm - Sat, March 23 2013
dave tunge said:
Pretty hard to be embarrassed by the new york times.....or anyone on the east coast or west coast for that matter.
South Dakota is a rock solid piece of America. We have the good sense to elect good leaders ( you're included Bernie :-) )
Unless I have missed something since Cory began his articles I haven't seen much of a positive mindframe. We have so much to be thankful for..........I just can't believe the "R" word provokes so much negativity in him.
For your assignment Cory I'd like you to write 100 times on the blackboard "
Republicans aren't all bad".
06:34 am - Mon, March 25 2013
Dave, I've offered positive suggestions for improving the political process. But there's nothing wrong with having a negative attitude about bad policies. I say to myself and others, "South Dakota's great!" all the time. But that doesn't change the fact that lots of other people look at our regressive policies and say "Yikes!"
12:37 pm - Mon, March 25 2013
Luiejack said:
Maybe you should quit worrying about posturing in politics and instead be concerned about the safety of our children? Think about it.
06:49 pm - Mon, March 25 2013
Kay said:
We should be thankful that we can publically discuss our opinions and the right to bear arms is one of the reasons we do. As far as being embarrassed by our legislature we may not be as progressive as our east coast neighbors but the safety that South Dakotans enjoy is a worthwhile trade off.
07:15 pm - Mon, March 25 2013
And Dave, that negative attitude toward everyone on the East and West Coasts doesn't exactly improve our tourism image, either.
07:32 pm - Mon, March 25 2013
Lu, that's exactly what I was saying to the South Dakota Legislature. They didn't listen, and they voted to authorize putting dangerous and unnecessary weapons in my daughter's really safe school.

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