The tragic shooting of U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords has brought the issue of gun control back to the national forefront. I believe that in considering gun controls, Congress must find a balance between an individual’s right to bear arms with the right of society to be safe. Such a balance can be reached and the State of Hawaii is evidence of that. It is estimated that there are roughly one million privately owned handguns in the State. However, according to the Violence Policy Center, in 2007, Hawaii had the lowest gun death rate in the nation.
That’s because while Hawaii’s gun registration laws are among the toughest in the nation, they are designed to allow for gun ownership, but only after a rigorous vetting of the potential gun owner.
Pursuant to Chapter 134, Hawaii Revised Statutes, all firearms must be registered with the police. Further, an applicant for a permit to acquire a handgun must have passed a training class and is subject to a 14-day waiting period during which time the applicants criminal, medical and mental background is checked. These background checks are comprehensive and include checking the National Instant Criminal Background Check System and contacting the applicant’s physician. Only after the applicant has cleared the background checks can they own, possess or control a firearm.
The Hawaii statute allows for a permit to acquire a firearm to be issued to a U.S. citizens of the age of twenty-one or more. However, the statutes specifically prohibit a person from owning or possessing a firearm or ammunition if they are (1) a fugitive from justice, (2) prohibited by federal law from possessing a firearm, (3) is under indictment or has waived indictment or has been convicted of a felony or any crime of violence or sale of drugs. In addition, a person is prohibited from owning or possessing a firearm or ammunition if they are (1) under treatment for addiction, abuse or dependence of a dangerous, harmful or detrimental drug or intoxicating liquor, (2) acquitted of a crime on the ground of mental disease, disorder or defect, or (3) diagnosed as having a significant behavioral, emotional, or mental disorder; unless medically documented to be no longer adversely affected. Persons who are subject to an order of prohibiting them from contacting, threatening, or physically abusing another are also prohibited from owning or possessing a firearm or ammunition unless the order specifically permits it for good cause shown.
Hawaii law also prohibits certain firearms and ammunition. Specifically, the law prohibits the manufacture, possession, sale, or acquisition of assault pistols, automatic firearms, rifles with barrels of less than sixteen inches, silencers, teflon coated or other armor piercing ammunition, or ammunition meant to explode upon impact and pistol magazines with a capacity of more than ten rounds.
Hawaii law places reasonable limits on the persons who can possess firearms and the types of firearms that can be possessed. In doing so, Hawaii has been able to strike a balance between a citizen’s right to possess a firearm and the safety of the public. Such a model, using reasonable – but strict – restrictions should be considered by Congress as it considers issues regarding gun control.
For more information concerning my work and views on Gun Control issues, please contact my Washington, DC office.
I look forward to your feedback.