Worst Year Ever for Hawaii Firearms Owners, Advocate Says
Hawaii already has among the strictest firearms laws in the nation, and some of the most cumbersome registration and training requirements, but if key lawmakers get their way, the laws will become even tougher for firearms owners and anyone who lives in their home.
Dr. Max Cooper, a spokesperson for the Hawaii Rifle Association, has lobbied at the Hawaii State Legislature for 30 years.
"This is the worst year for firearms rights in the Hawaii State Legislature since statehood because of the number of bills and content of the anti gun bills," Cooper said.
The first bill up for a hearing on Tuesday, January 29 - House Bill 426 - would undo a law passed in 2012 that gives firearms instructors partial immunity from liability for incidents arising during the mandatory class that all handgun owners must take before obtaining a firearms permit. Newly appointed House Judiciary Chair Karl Rhodes is considering Rep. Scott Saiki's bill that would take away that protection for instructors.
This is just one of several anti Second Amendment measures introduced at the legislature this year after President Barack Obama's call for more restrictive legislation. Other proposals include confiscating semi-auto rifles, instituting ammunition restrictions, and requiring that firearms owners re-register annually as well as go through re-training every two years.
In the Senate:
Senate Bill 219 would ban so-called “assault weapons” and would force firearms owners to turn in their weapons to law enforcement. It would also prohibit the sale or transfer, as well as the possession of many modern sporting rifles. Senator Les Ihara, Jr. introduced the measure by request.
Senate Bill 36 which adds mandates to firearms registration, background checks, storage and permits. Hawaii already requires gun owners to attend a day-long training class before registering a handgun, but this bill would mandate firearms owners take the class every two years, and also requires annual renewals of firearm registrations. The bill also requires all residents in a house where a firearm is stored undergo a background check identical to the firearms owner. The bill was introduced by Senators Clarence Nishihara, Gilbert Keith-Agaran and Glenn Wakai.
Senate Bill 69 appropriates $100,000 to be used by county police departments for “gun buyback” programs to get more firearms off of the street. The NRA argues the "gun buyback schemes across the country have proven to be complete failures and an irresponsible waste of taxpayer dollars" and notes "the average person who voluntarily surrenders a firearm to police is not a criminal and the firearms surrendered are not those misused by criminals." Senators Will Espero, Rosalyn Baker, Brickwood Galuteria and Josh Green introduced the legislation.
In the House:
House Bill 30 would require those buying ammunition provide proof of firearm ownership for the caliber being purchased. The bill was introduced by House Judiciary Chair Karl Rhoads.
Many people in Hawaii support firearms ownership and in fact own firearms. There are more than 1 million firearms registered in Hawaii, and likely many more legally owned firearms purchased before 1994 that were not required to be registered.
Some of those firearms owners are pushing back. More than 300 people rallied at the capitol two weekends ago as a part of the Gun Appreciation Day movement across the country, demanding the ability to protect themselves and their families.
The Hawaii Rifle Association also launched a petition asking the Honolulu City Council to end long lines at the Honolulu Police Department where they must wait as much as 9 hours on three separate occasions to legally register their firearms.
This past weekend, the Hawaii Rifle Association held its annual meeting at which a number of firearms owners expressed concerns about the onslaught of measures they say will further erode their right to self defense.
But not every lawmaker is pushing tougher restrictions - some want to ease Hawaii's nearly toughest in the nation firearms laws.
Former House Speaker Calvin Say introduced House Bill 603 that allows the use of deadly force when protecting a person's home against an intruder.
Senate Minority Leader Sam Slom introduced Senate Bill 293 to protect those who use a justified use of force from civil lawsuits from perpetrators who are injured or killed. He also introduced Senate Bill 262 that allows the chief of police in each county to issue openly carry firearms permits and Senate Bill 274 that would require Hawaii to become a shall-issue instead of may-issue state, meaning police chiefs would have to issue concealed carry permits to those who passed an extensive background check.
Mark Mattioli, whose 6-year-old son James was killed in the Newtown, CT, mass shooting, said more gun laws are not the solution. He said more focus needs to be on addressing mental health needs and civility.
“I believe the solution may not be as easy to implement as I might hope, but it’s a simple concept. We need civility across our nation. What we’re seeing are symptoms of a bigger problem. This is a symptom. The problem is not gun laws. The problem is a lack of civility," Mattioli said.
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