HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Hawaii gun owners would be required to have insurance for their firearms and renew their gun registrations every five years under a bill introduced Wednesday at the State Legislature, proposals that gun advocates said are unneeded and would have a chilling effect on constitutional gun rights.
The proposal, introduced by State Sen. Josh Green (D – Kona, Ka'u) would require gun owners to obtain firearms liability insurance from private insurance companies. Hawaii would be the first state in the country to enact such a requirement, if lawmakers and the governor approve of the law.
"I don't want to take people's guns away from them but I want people to take full responsibility," said Green, an emergency room physician at Kohala Hospital on the Big Island.
Green likens the requirement to car insurance.
"They have to pay insurance so that if they're in a collision and they hurt someone else who's an innocent bystander, it's covered. Just like with guns, if a gun falls into the wrong hands or if there's an accident, just an accident, it makes a lot of sense to me that we have that extra level of responsibility," Green said.
Bill Richter, secretary of the Hawaii Rifle Association, said, "Any time you mandate something on a core constitutional, fundamental right, it has the effect of chilling that right and the exercise thereof, so we really don't think it's a good idea."
Richter and insurance experts said homeowners and renters insurance would already cover accidents involving someone's firearms, even if gun incidents happen outside their home. Purposeful criminal activity would not be covered by liability insurance of any kind, Richter said.
Green's proposal would also require gun owners to renew their registrations every five years. Right now, that gun registration is good for life without taking into consideration changing medical or mental conditions of gun owners.
"Imagine if someone has become blind over the years, should they have a gun? Imagine if someone's had psychiatric illness from drug addiction," Green said.
The five-year renewal requirement would require 200,000 guns being re-registered in Hawaii each year, about ten times more registrations than are processed annually now.
"The workload is going to be incredibly high, it's going to be difficult to maintain and how are we going to pay for it?" Richter said.
Green admitted the proposal won't be easy to get through the legislature and could take years to be approved.
"A bill this controversial and this unique usually does take a few years. But I want people talking about it now so that if we have to do something we don't do it on the fly. That we've had good dialogue," Green said.
But Richter said Hawaii already has some of the most restrictive gun laws in the country and very low instances of gun violence, so further restrictions are not needed.
"Hawaii requires everybody to get a permit to acquire. Requires training, 8-hour training course in order to purchase a handgun. Every transfer has to go through HPD. (Honolulu Police Department) So there are more than enough controls," Richter said.