Advance stricter gun-control bills
Hawaii often watches from the sidelines at every decision point in the aftermath of tragic mass shootings, when national initiatives on gun control are discussed.
Mahalo for reading the Honolulu Star-Advertiser!
You're reading a premium story. Read the full story with our Print & Digital Subscription.
Already a subscriber? Log in now to continue reading this story.
Hawaii often watches from the sidelines at every decision point in the aftermath of tragic mass shootings, when national initiatives on gun control are discussed. This state already has some of the most restrictive regulations on gun purchasing and the handling of firearms in the nation, and that’s for the good.
This year, however, there is new legislation that deserves to advance, bills that could improve on Hawaii’s gun safety.
The Feb. 14 school massacre in Parkland, Fla., has changed the entire landscape around gun control. The eloquent advocacy of the teenage survivors and the families of the murdered students and staff has moved millions of Americans. This could be read as a signal of a sea change that demands a local response, too. Hawaii’s schools are engaged in the national expression of concern about gun violence and are planning a 17-minute walkout on Wednesday, one that easily becomes a valuable learning experience.
Hawaii’s Legislature is following those in other states that are banning “bump stocks” and other devices that accelerate a weapon’s rate of firing.
Two companion bills — House Bill 1908 and Senate Bill 2046 — each are moving through its second round of debate. During this stage, lawmakers must ensure that the final language targets devices designed to subvert the ordinary operation of a semiautomatic, converting it to a “multiburst” weapon, rather than upgrades that merely make the gun operate efficiently.
The second measure is one that narrows the window of time during which a gun owner who has become disqualified to possess firearms must transfer ownership or otherwise get rid of his or her weapons.
Under federal law, prohibitions apply to convicted felons, domestic abusers and people with specific kinds of mental health histories. State laws, including those in Hawaii, go further: Here gun ownership is banned for those with violent or gun-related misdemeanors, those considered dangerously mentally ill, substance abusers and juvenile offenders.
Current state law gives those with a gun prohibition 30 days to transfer ownership or otherwise relinquish their weapons. Without a doubt, this is much too long. As much as possible, those who are believed to be dangerous, whether through domestic abuse complaints or because of their mental or physical state, should not have the means to hurt people.
The proposed change to allow only seven days seems acceptable, allowing reasonable time for the disposition of guns. There are those who believe it should be shorter, but this undeniably is an improvement over the status quo.
Other bills deserving attention:
>> One measure that has stalled, unfortunately, is SB 3092, which would have set a six-month deadline to resolve a public information complaint, starting from the filing date. The voters deserve timely handling of public information.
>> “Safe zones” for the homeless would be required under SB 2501. This should be one option for addressing the homelessness crisis, but it needs to be a function overseen by the senior staff, not only the Department of Human Services.
>> House Bill 2113, which would to underwrite college tuition for state employees to keep them working for the state for 10 years, really should be targeted toward specific, needed jobs. Simply leaving it up to the Department of Human Resources Development to choose the positions to fill would be wrongheaded. Let the agency first define the positions the state needs filled, then look into incentivizing employees to pursue those.
The Legislature still has miles to go before settling on fixes for myriad other state problems. For starters, it’s encouraging to see lawmakers leaning in on gun control. Hawaii has a low rate of gun deaths, and should be proud of ongoing efforts to keep things headed in the right direction.