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Well-organized gun lobby is poised to fight restrictions, lawmaker says


Hawaii gun enthusiasts are organizing to stop gun control bills from gaining any traction at the state Legislature.

Hawaii Rifle Association President Harvey Gerwig said Wednesday that more than 400 people successfully opposed a bill that would have made firearm instructors liable for accidents that occur during training.

Rep. Karl Rhoads, a Democrat who is chairman of the Judiciary Committee and supported the bill, says he wasn’t swayed by the crowd of opposition.

“In the aftermath of Newtown, I don’t think it’s responsible not to do something,” Rhoads said, referring to the Connecticut town where 20 first-graders and six adults were killed in a Dec. 20 shooting rampage.

Rhoads recommended that the committee pass the bill but the committee voted not to approve it. 

Rhoads said he doubts the chances of similar measures this session after seeing the gun lobby’s effective opposition to what he calls “a really minor bill.”

Gerwig said the organization is continuing to mobilize community members through media, word-of-mouth and online efforts to ensure pro-gun voices are heard.

He called several of the proposed gun control measures “crazy” and says that they would have no effect on curbing gun violence.

“Gun bans don’t work,” Gerwig said.

He said the Legislature should instead focus on improving mental health.

House Majority Leader Rep. Scott Saiki, who introduced the bill relating to firearm instructors’ liability, said mental health problems can contribute to violence but that access to weapons is a serious public safety issue.

Saiki says he is supporting other measures to ban assault weapons and to require people who are buying ammunition to show proof of gun registration.

Gerwig called the assault weapons proposal “an absolute travesty.”

He says that and other similar proposals impede on Hawaii residents’ constitutional rights.

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