South Dakota would not come at the top of an alphabetical list of states, but it does come at or near the top of a list of states having the least restrictive gun policies in the nation.
That's because buying a firearm is a quick and easy matter in this state: no permit required to buy a shotgun, rifle or handgun; no waiting period; no firearm registration; and no license required for conceal carry. Indeed, "No Weapons Allowed" signs cannot be enforced in South Dakota.
The right of South Dakota residents to keep and use guns is even enshrined in the state constitution, and lawmakers seem to expand this right with each subsequent legislative session. Anyone living in South Dakota will want to get an overview of the state's gun laws.
How Hard Is It to Buy a Gun in South Dakota?
Article VI, Section 24 of the South Dakota state constitution provides: “The right of the citizens to bear arms in defense of themselves and the state shall not be denied.”
Adults over the age of 18, including residents of South Dakota and residents of contiguous states, can buy a handgun, rifle or shotgun without much muss or fuss in South Dakota. Where many states require buyers to get a permit to purchase a firearm, South Dakota does not.
There is no state waiting period, no obligation to register the firearm, no magazine capacity restrictions, and state background checks for gun buyers are simply not part of the law.
Federal Laws for Gun Purchases
However, federal rules are different, requiring background checks and a waiting period. Anyone buying firearms from federal firearm dealers will have a 48-hour hold placed on the purchase so a background check can be completed.
Those individuals who have a South Dakota concealed carry permit can present their permit to skip the background check and waiting period.
Can I Buy Any Type of Gun?
Residents of South Dakota or of contiguous states can buy many different types of guns in the state. These include pistols, shotguns and long guns.
Few states have more contiguous states than South Dakota. It is a landlocked state bordered by Iowa, Minnesota, Montana, Wyoming, Nebraska and North Dakota. Residents of any of these states can take advantage of South Dakota's "flexible" gun purchase laws.
Certain firearms and accessories are considered "controlled weapons" in South Dakota:
- Machine guns.
- Sawed-off shotguns.
- Firearms with the serial number removed or altered.
Possession of Controlled Weapons
State law provides that nobody can possess a controlled weapon in the state, unless they:
- Are a law enforcement officer or member of the armed forces of the U.S. or of the South Dakota National Guard acting in the lawful discharge of their duties.
- Have a valid state or federal license or have registered the weapon with the proper authority.
- Possess the firearm briefly after having found it or taken it from an aggressor.
Are There Any Restrictions on Who Can Buy?
South Dakota does impose a few restrictions on who can buy a gun in the state. First, the individual must be a resident of South Dakota or a contiguous state and be at least 18 years old. In addition, certain individuals cannot buy guns, such as anyone who:
- Has been convicted of a crime punishable by imprisonment for over a year.
- Has a prior conviction for a violent crime or certain drug-related crimes in the previous 15 years.
- Has been convicted of felony possession of a controlled substance or marijuana in the previous five years.
Has a misdemeanor conviction for a domestic violence offense in the previous year.
Is a fugitive from justice.
- Abuses controlled substances.
- Has been adjudicated as mentally defective or incompetent or who has been committed to a mental institution.
- Is an illegal alien.
- Is a former U.S. citizen who has renounced their citizenship.
- Was dishonorably discharged from the U.S. Armed Forces.
- Is subject to a restraining order.
What Are the South Dakota Gun Laws for Minors?
If a minor – a person under 18 years of age – wants to uses a firearm, they can do so only if a parent, legal guardian or firearm instructor is present. A person under 18 can use a pistol with the consent of his parent or guardian. The use must be one of the following:
- On property owned or leased by the minor, their parents, guardians or immediate family members.
- In the presence of a licensed or accredited gun safety instructor.
- For farming, ranching, trapping, target shooting or in a gun safety course.
Can Gun Ownership Rights Be Restored?
Under South Dakota law, it is illegal for any person with a history of violent crimes or felony charges to be in possession of a firearm. This includes those with a misdemeanor history of charges that involve domestic violence.
It is possible for these individuals to have their right to bear arms restored in South Dakota one year after the initial date of the charges. The individual must make a request to the court, which will require that the person be evaluated before restoration of rights.
Open Carrying Laws
South Dakota is currently a permitless state. That means that no permits are required to carry a firearm in the state. Open carry has been legal in South Dakota for decades without a permit.
Open carry means carrying a pistol or handgun openly in a public place. If an individual open carries, the weapon is visible to anyone in the vicinity. The minimum age to open carry is 18 years old.
Are Permits Required for Concealed Carry?
What about concealed carry? It's the same rule. Anyone at least 18 years old who can legally possess a firearm in South Dakota may carry a concealed firearm in the state without a concealed carry permit. State rules do make some areas off-limits. These include elementary and secondary schools and school buses.
Unlike many states, South Dakota even allows concealed carry at roadside rest areas and instate/national parks, state/national forests and Wildlife Management Areas in South Dakota. And "No Weapons Allowed" signs can't be enforced in South Dakota.
These laws that legalize permitless concealed carry are relatively recent, effective in 2019. Before that date, state laws mandated that anyone wishing to carry a concealed handgun or pistol must obtain a permit.
Are Permits Currently Available
South Dakota does make permits available to any who wants them in order to travel with a gun to another state that recognizes South Dakota permits. The state issues Concealed Pistol Permits (CPP) to residents and also to military service personnel and their spouses stationed in South Dakota. Three types of permits are available:
- Regular permits.
- Gold card permits.
- Enhanced permits.
Benefits of Gold Card Permits
While all permits authorize holders to carry a concealed weapon in South Dakota and are recognized in a number of states, the gold card permit also shows law enforcement that the holder has passed the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) when purchasing a firearm.
With this permit, the buyer need not go through the federal waiting period. The enhanced permit does all this too, and is recognized in more states than the regular permit. To obtain the enhanced permit, an individual must take and pass a firearms training course.
To be eligible for a permit, a South Dakota resident must:
- Be a citizen of the United States.
- Be a resident of South Dakota for a minimum of 30 days.
- Not be someone considered by the state as a "danger to others or danger to self" currently, or within the prior 10 years.
- Have no outstanding history with alcohol, drug or controlled substance abuse.
- Have had no felony or misdemeanor convictions in the past five years under South Dakota laws regarding firearms or substances.
In 2022, the governor of South Dakota signed into law a bill making these permits free. Before that, the fees were: regular $10; gold card $70; enhanced $10. There was an additional fingerprinting fee of $43.25 for gold card and enhanced permits.
What About Reciprocity?
Reciprocity, when it comes to gun laws, involves one state's recognition of another state's gun permits. For South Dakota, this includes two areas: whether South Dakota recognizes permits issued by other states and whether other states recognize South Dakota's permits.
The answer to the first question is simple: South Dakota recognizes permits issued by all states. There are no states from which permits are not accepted in South Dakota. If an individual has a permit to buy and/or carry a gun from any state, they can buy and/or carry a gun in South Dakota.
However, not every state recognizes South Dakota permits. Some states, like California, do not recognize these permits at all. These states accept them as they are.
- New Hampshire
- North Carolina
- North Dakota
States with Restricted Reciprocity
A number of other states offer restricted reciprocity to permits issued by South Dakota. Some only accept enhanced permits, others only accept South Dakota permits issued to South Dakota residents, but not those issued to nonresidents. In other states, the concealed carry permits are accepted for those 21 years or older. They are:
- Colorado (at least 21 and resident permits only).
- Delaware (at least 21 and Enhanced permits only).
- Florida (at least 21 and resident permits only).
- Michigan (at least 21 and resident permits only).
- Minnesota (at least 21 and Enhanced permits only.
- Missouri (at least 19 years old, 18 for military).
- Nebraska (at least 21 and Enhanced permits only).
- Nevada (at least 21 and Enhanced permits only).
- Pennsylvania (at least 21 and resident permits only).
- South Carolina (at least 21 and Enhanced and resident permits).
- Washington (at least 21 and Enhanced permits only)
- West Virginia
- Wisconsin (at least 21 and Enhanced and Gold permits only)
South Dakota Preemption
South Dakota state laws make clear that the state intends to preempt firearms laws in localities in the state. It is specifically prohibited for a county, township or municipality to pass or enforce an ordinance in violation of state preemption law. If they try to restrict gun sales or use in any way, the attorney general must bring an action for injunctive relief.
Teo Spengler earned a J.D. from U.C. Berkeley's Boalt Hall. As an Assistant Attorney General in Juneau, she practiced before the Alaska Supreme Court and the U.S. Supreme Court before opening a plaintiff's personal injury practice in San Francisco. She holds both an M.A. and an M.F.A in creative writing and enjoys writing legal blogs and articles. Her work has appeared in numerous online publications including USA Today, Legal Zoom, eHow Business, Livestrong, SF Gate, Go Banking Rates, Arizona Central, Houston Chronicle, Navy Federal Credit Union, Pearson, Quicken.com, TurboTax.com, and numerous attorney websites. Spengler splits her time between the French Basque Country and Northern California.