HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Come Jan. 1, a new “red flag” gun law will go into effect in Hawaii in a bid to get guns out of the hands of those considered a danger to themselves or others.
The law creates a process for family members, co-workers, law enforcement, or mental health professionals to temporarily block access to firearms to someone who they worry is unstable.
Under the bill, which was approved by Gov. David Ige in June, the concerned person can petition Family Court for a protective order.
Hawaii joins 17 other states and Washington, D.C., with the legislation. Some of the states that approved are typically known as Second Amendment strongholds, including Indiana and Florida.
Erin Davis, a Hawaii native now working at Brady United Against Gun Violence in Washington, D.C., calls the red flag law preventative.
The measures came out of cries for change following mass shootings, especially those where loved ones expressed concern ahead of the rampage.
“Often times the people who are closest to the shooter observe those signs and they may not know what to do,” Davis said, adding these laws are gaining traction. She expects more states to follow.
The temporary removal of the firearms can be anywhere from days to one year. If more than a year is requested, the petitioner can ask for an extension from the court.
Clifford Goo, of the Hawaii Rifle Association, criticizes the quick removal and the fact that a court hearing can happen without the gun owner present.
“It doesn’t give the owner a fair chance to defend himself, at least not right away," he said.
Goo acknowledges the bill does provide some protection because the petitioner needs to show proof of why they are concerned, but he worries the law could be used improperly to punish someone with a firearm embroiled in a family feud or if there is an issue with a co-worker.
“Even a dispute with neighbors, they might go ahead and decide to file one of these against you," Goo said, adding an independent mental health professional should be required by the court to confirm there is a need to have the gun removed.
He also adds that felony, perjury charges should be filed for any petitioner who lies to get someone else’s gun removed.
The Hawaii Firearms Coalition conducted a survey that showed a vast majority of firearms owners would not seek mental health care, even if they know they need it, because of the new legislation.