By Alex Dobuzinskis
(Reuters) - North Dakotans will no longer need a permit to carry a concealed weapon after Republican Governor Doug Burgum signed legislation lifting restrictions, a victory for gun rights advocates that came a week after South Dakota's governor vetoed a similar bill.
The law, which takes effect on Aug. 1, mandates that gun owners only need a North Dakota driver's license or state identification card for at least a year before they can carry a concealed firearm in public.
Under current regulations, applicants must take a test to obtain a permit which entails fees of more than $100.
The measure, signed late on Thursday, was approved by the
Republican-controlled legislature despite concerns over public safety if the state made it easier to carry hidden weapons. Advocates framed the issue in terms of the constitutional right to bear arms.
"North Dakota has a rich heritage of hunting and a culture of deep respect for firearm safety," Burgum said. "As a hunter and gun owner myself, I strongly support gun rights for law-abiding citizens."
The legislation makes North Dakota the 12th state to allow gun owners to carry their weapons without a concealed-carry permit, according to the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, which opposes the practice.
"There's kind of a mythology around this idea that if you're going armed in public, you're going to be able to save the day, but actually it's more likely you will get yourself hurt or hurt an innocent person," said Laura Cutilletta, a managing attorney with the center.
Burgum said his state's bill would not make it easier for criminals to obtain guns. Firearms dealers still must comply with federal background checks to ensure purchasers are not convicted felons, he said.
Last week, South Dakota Governor Dennis Daugaard, a Republican, vetoed a measure to allow carrying a concealed weapon without a permit. He defended existing rules as reasonable, saying lawful gun owners have easily obtained concealed carry permits.
Last year, the San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals found the U.S. Constitution does not grant any fundamental right to carry a concealed firearm in public.
The ruling upheld the authority of officials to grant permits to those facing a specific danger but only applied to states in the western United States.
The U.S. Supreme Court in 2013 declined to accept a case that involved the issue of whether firearm owners have a constitutional right to carry concealed guns.
Thirty-one states have "open carry" laws, allowing handgun owners to carry weapons in full view without a license, according to the center.
(Reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis in Los Angeles; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)