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Hawaii senators consider gun control bill

By Anita Hofschneider

Associated Press

LAST UPDATED: 03:01 p.m. HST, Feb 20, 2013

Several Hawaii lawmakers are pushing for a bill requiring more background checks for gun owners in the state along with a firearms buyback program.

The state Senate Ways and Means Committee considered a proposal today to dedicate $200,000 to several initiatives intended to keep Hawaii safe from gun violence.

Lawmakers introduced the bill in response to the December school shooting in Connecticut and an increasing number of guns in Hawaii. But the proposal drew criticism from residents who consider it an assault on their constitutional rights.

"If you don't like the Second Amendment, go change it," said Ken Archer, one of several people who submitted testimony opposing the bill. "Until then, that's the Constitution."

The bill sets aside money for a gun buyback program and gun safety education and training programs.

The bill also calls for extensive background checks for people with mental health problems and requires background checks for people who are registering guns purchased in other states.

The state attorney general's office supports the bill.

Getting one "gun off of the street is one less gun that could possibly fall into the wrong hands," Deputy Attorney General Debbie Tanakaya told lawmakers.

Max Cooper, legislative coordinator for the Hawaii Rifle Association, says he supports closing the loophole in state law that lets people register guns from out-of-state without undergoing background checks.

But he opposes the rest of the bill, saying that the proposed buyback and training programs are a waste of taxpayer money.

He said the government would be better served to invest in National Rifle Association training programs and that gun buyback programs are ineffective.

Law enforcement officials also raised concerns about the proposals.

The Honolulu Police Department said they're worried about getting saddled with the responsibility of running gun related programs.

They said they don't have the resources to store guns or the ability to train civilians on proper gun use.

The department suggested giving the money to the Department of Public Safety to coordinate statewide programs.

Cooper also opposed adding more extensive background checks for people who may have mental health issues. He said that existing background checks are sufficient.

The original version of the bill proposed just a buyback program but lawmakers expanded the proposal after hearing public testimony.

The committee plans to vote on the bill Friday.

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