Rise in street crime stokes popularity of non-lethal pellet guns in Hawaii

Non-lethal weapons like the Byrna launchers are becoming an attractive alternative to traditional firearms.
Published: Oct. 21, 2022 at 6:43 PM HST|Updated: Oct. 22, 2022 at 9:01 AM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The popularity of non-lethal pellet guns is on the rise in Hawaii.

With the recent increase in random street crimes and a new U.S. Supreme Court ruling allowing residents to carry concealed weapons, non-lethal weapons like “Byrna launchers” are becoming an attractive alternative to traditional firearms.

“I feel safe if I had to a Byrna, which is a non-lethal source, of protection,” said Rob of Mililani.

Rob, who didn’t want his full name used, also owns a gun.

But he feels safe enough with his Byrna launcher — a weapon that can shoot a .65-caliber pellet containing irritants like pepper spray to disable a person not kill them. Unlike a Taser whose range is limited to 20 feet, one of these launchers can hit a target as far away as 60 feet.

Technically, it’s like a paint ball gun. But it’s not a toy and it can cause a lot of damage.

Several months ago, Rob said he was driving downtown and pulled into a crowded parking lot when an angry man jumped out of a truck and confronted him.

“He came in and put his hands on my truck and he was coming to the window and that’s when I flashed the Byrna,” the retired military veteran said.

“He put his hands up and said OK and he walked away.”

Kurt Tsuneyoshi, a local distributor for Byrna products, said the new interest in the weapons isn’t just coming from Second Amendment enthusiasts but also from people who don’t believe in firearms.

“We actually have about 11 success stories that local people were in a situation of danger. One of them is a military guy — some guys were trying to rob him and he had the Byrna and they kind of ran away,” Tsuneyoshi said.

But not all are sold on the idea.

Former Honolulu Police Department Deputy Police Chief John McCarthy said that while it’s legal to own pepper spray for self-defense in Hawaii, he thinks these weapons may not be legal.

“The law doesn’t say pepper ball is okay. It says pepper spray is okay,” McCarthy said.

Tsuneyoshi disagrees, saying the sale and possession of pepper balls aren’t explicitly banned by the city.

“This is probably one of the best alternatives right now,” Tsuneyoshi said.

“Most people don’t want to get guns but they need something to protect themselves.”