$200,000 County Gun Buy Back Program is Bad Deal for Taxpayers

Senate Public Safety committee (photo by Tana Lee)
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Senate Public Safety committee (photo by Tana Lee)

Dr. Max Cooper – Senate Bill 69, the police gun buyback program, passed the Public Safety (PSM) Committee last week and is radically amended by Chair Will Espero and his committee members, Senators Galuteria and Green.  Sen. Slom voted no.   It is now a “Gun safety and Education” bill with a $200,000 price tag.

The new version, termed SB69, Senate Draft 1 (SD-1), requires the county police departments to run a background check using the NICS (National Instant Check System) on any person wishing to register a firearms brought in from out of state, including fingerprints, and charge the usual FBI fee, currently $16 which “may” be waived if the registrant has fingerprints already on file (e.g. applied before).  The county police departments have actually been doing just this for some time, without statutory authority. 


 The $200,000 appropriation is to be split among the county PD’s with $80,000 for Honolulu, and $40,000 each for the other counties.  The money is to be used by the PD’s to establish gun safety education and training for the community,“extensive” background checks for mental health concerns for “certain individuals” wishing to register guns, and gun buy-back programs offering cash to give incentive to possessors to “forfeit” their firearms.

     HRA strongly opposes this bill. 

  • HRA supports the NICS checks for out-of-state registration, and fingerprinting (but not on registrants who already have prints on file).  Their prints don’t change.  This however will further lengthen the intolerable lines currently jamming the firearms sections, so some of the appropriation must be earmarked for additional personnel as well as additional police station locations on all Islands, where background checks, registration, and permits can be handled expeditiously.
  • The county police departments have no training programs to teach the public firearms training and safety.   Teaching beginning shooters is far different from teaching police recruits.  They failed on their promise to develop such programs when mandatory training for handgun permits was enacted in 1994.  Police Public Information officers have repeatedly advised public forums that passive surrender or fleeing is better than responding with a gun to a lethal attack, contrary to statistical evidence showing that response increases the likelihood of serious injury or death for the victim.   
  • Hawaii’s NRA Basic Firearm Safety Instructors have trained thousands of people in safe gun handling practices and state laws governing firearms at no expense to the government and with a perfect safety record.  If the Legislature wants to spend money where it counts, NRA Instructor programs on all Islands need more public ranges and proper classrooms.
  • Buy-backs waste taxpayer money.  They are a public relations campaign for the Legislature and the police departments, with no public safety value. 
  • The Hawaii Senate Committees on Health and Public Safety have assigned the complicated issue of improving mental health background checks to a working group of professionals (SB932, SD1).  Our existing mental health background checks are sufficiently strong to await the outcome.  County police departments should operate within the current statutes, not “perform extensive checks for certain individuals.” 


PLEASE SUBMIT TESTIMONY TO THE COMMITTEE ON THIS BAD BILL, and, if at all possible, come to the Capitol Feb. 20, 10am, Rm 211, to give your testimony in front of the Senate Ways and Means Committee.  To send testimony, go to https://www.capitol.hawaii.gov/submittestimony.aspx?billtype=SB&billnumber=69 or fax it to 808-586-6231.


Dr. Max Cooper is the legislative coordinator for the Hawaii Rifle Association