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Hawaii lawmakers propose gun buyback program

    Twenty-two guns seized in a raid on a suspected drug dealer's house in Ewa Beach were on display yesterday at police headquarters on Alapai Street.

Hawaii lawmakers want to spend $100,000 to get unwanted guns off the streets, saying it will help the state avoid a mass shooting like those seen in Colorado and Connecticut last year. 

A state Senate committee discussed a bill Thursday that would establish a gun buyback program, offering cash to people willing to give up firearms.

Proponents say the program would decrease opportunities for gun violence. They say guns were used in 19 percent of murders statewide in 2011.

Hawaii Rifle Association President Harvey Gerwig said the organization is only marginally opposed to the initiative because it doesn’t directly affect second amendment rights. 

But Gerwig said the proposed program would waste money and could lead to the destruction of historic guns.  

Similar programs in other states have unearthed unusual weapons, including a missile launcher in Seattle.

The state attorney general estimates that there are about 1 million guns in Hawaii.

The Senate public safety committee put off a decision on the bill until Feb. 7 to give the attorney general time to propose amendments.

The state rifle association has had success so far in the Legislature in stopping stricter gun measures from gaining traction. This week, more than 400 people spoke out against a bill that would have made firearm instructors liable for accidents that happen during training.

The organization is using word-of-mouth, media and online efforts to encourage pro-gun voices, Gerwig said, adding that the Legislature should instead focus on improving mental health.

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