Lawmakers weigh new restrictions for Hawaii gun owners

Published: Mar. 15, 2016 at 11:05 PM HST|Updated: Mar. 15, 2016 at 11:40 PM HST
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(Image: Hawaii News Now)
(Image: Hawaii News Now)

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - State lawmakers are considering several bills that would further restrict access to firearms.

One measure is designed to alert police when Hawaii gun owners are arrested in another county or on the mainland. Individuals convicted of violent crimes and other serious offenses are prohibited from owning firearms in the state. House Bill 2629 would allow county police to enroll gun permit applicants and those registering firearms in "Rap Back," an FBI database which would provide notification if a gun owner is later taken into custody in another jurisdiction.

"Every year we find about 20 people who come in to register a subsequent firearm and we find out that they are now a prohibited person. We are basically only finding them by accident," said Maj. Richard Robinson of the Honolulu Police Department.

Harvey Gerwig, president of the Hawaii Rifle Association, testified against the legislation during a Senate hearing on Tuesday.

"There's nowhere else in the nation that's using Rap Back for firearms registration. We're now going to be the guinea pigs for this. We just don't see any reason for it," he said.

Another proposal primarily targets off-duty law enforcement officers. House Bill 625 prohibits a person from possessing a firearm while drinking alcohol outside of their home or temporary residence. HPD supports the measure. The department recently added policies that prohibit off-duty officers from handling a firearm while drinking alcohol or while impaired by the consumption of liquor.

Gerwig said the measure should set a .08 blood alcohol content limit for legal consumption.

"One of the big issues with this is there's no qualification. Are you drunk like you would be in drunk driving? In that case you shouldn't be in possession of a firearm and we wouldn't fight it," he said.

But Robinson told lawmakers that people would have to waive their constitutional right to search and seizure when they're issued a permit in order for police to enforce the legislation if a specific limit was added.

"In order to prove that level of intoxication, we need a blood sample, which is going to be a search so it's history. If you just put in 'intoxicated,' which a lot of other states have, it becomes very subjective and very blurry," Robinson explained.

House Bill 625 would add misdemeanor stalking and sex assault to the offenses that disqualify a person from owning a firearm.

"There's no reason to allow folks convicted of threatening others to be able to continue to own weapons that they could potentially use against those people," said Rep. Chris Lee (D, Kailua-Waimanalo).

Opponents want fourth-degree stalking removed from the measure.

"An unwanted text or an unwanted email or perhaps a phone call should not disqualify a person from their core constitutional rights," Gerwig said.

The Senate Public Safety, Intergovernmental and Military Affairs Committee deferred decision making on all three bills until March 22.

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