Governor Burgum Is Undecided on Constitutional Carry Legislation

A screenshot from a Doug Burgum campaign ad aired during the 2016 election cycle touting the candidate as a "champion for North Dakota gun rights."

Yesterday the state Senate passed a House bill allowing North Dakotans who are not otherwise prohibited by law to carry concealed weapons without a permit. Because the Senate did not make any amendments to the bill, it now goes to Governor Doug Burgum’s office.

But will he sign it?

Burgum campaigned on his support for gun rights last year. He was quick to tout his rating from the National Rifle Association, which was the highest possible for a candidate who hadn’t yet held political office (there was even a bit of a food fight between Burgum and primary challenger Wayne Stenehjem over who was the truly endorsed NRA candidate).

He specifically touted himself as a “champion of North Dakota gun rights.”

A couple of weeks ago I think most political observers in the state, when asked if Burgum would sign a bill like this, would have said it’s likely. But recently South Dakota Governor Dennis Daugaard, a Republican who is also a member of the NRA, vetoed similar legislation.

“As a longtime member of the NRA, I support the right to bear arms,” Daugaard said in a statement explaining the veto. “South Dakota’s current permit process is simple and straightforward, and permits can be obtained in a matter of minutes.”

“He’ll decide after he reviews the bill,” Burgum spokesman Mike Nowatzki told me this morning.

Now some are wondering if Governor Doug Burgum might also see North Dakota relaxing concealed carry requirements as unnecessary given that obtaining a Class 2 permit in our state is, even supporters of this legislation acknowledge, very easy.

“He’ll decide after he reviews the bill,” Burgum spokesman Mike Nowatzki told me this morning.

So, as of now, Burgum is undecided.

The politics of the situation are interesting.

On one hand, Burgum won a very heated Republican primary by carpet bombing the state with marketing aimed at destroying the perception of the candidate as a rich, left-leaning Fargo liberal.  If he vetoes this bill, which has the NRA’s support, he will invite a lot of enmity from North Dakota’s Republican base.

Does he want to pick that fight? Also of note is that the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Rick Becker of Bismarck, was another of Burgum’s opponents for the Republican gubernatorial nomination.

Compounding that problem is the reality of the Legislature’s vote on the bill. Per Article V, Section 9 of the state constitution overriding a veto requires a 2/3’s majority in each chamber of the Legislature. It passed 83-9 in the House (a 94 percent majority), and 34-13 in the Senate (a 72 percent majority). To ensure that his veto held, Burgum would have to get some lawmakers in at least one chamber to flip on the bill during an override vote which would almost certainly happen.

If I had to lay a bet, I’d say Burgum will sign the bill, but it’s far from a certainty.

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and host of the Plain Talk Podcast which you can subscribe to by clicking here.

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