Toby Stangel could not have bought a gun legally.

The 28-year-old Wahiawa man, accused in a shooting rampage last week that left one dead and two injured, would have been disqualified from legally acquiring the semi-automatic handgun allegedly used.

Questions had been raised about the impact of a judge’s decision to dismiss an illegal firearms possession charge in 2007 — and whether that would have enabled him to buy a gun.

But Honolulu police told Civil Beat the charge would have shown up on a background check.

“Any felony conviction is a prohibition to gun ownership, even if the individual received a deferred acceptance of guilt or deferred acceptance of no contest,” HPD Spokeswoman Michelle Yu said in an email.

The gun Stangel allegedly used in last week’s shooting was not registered.

Stangel would have faced two forces when attempting to acquire a firearm: Honolulu police and licensed gun shops.

Individuals interested in purchasing a pistol need to show gun shops a permit — issued by HPD — before taking possession of the gun. Obtaining the permit itself takes about three weeks and multiple trips to both the shop and police department.

Here’s the process, in a nutshell:

  1. Take a firearms course.
  2. Select and buy a gun — but leave it with the shop.
  3. Apply for the permit from HPD and pass its screening process.
  4. Within six days of being issued a permit, return to shop to pick up gun.
  5. Within five days, take gun to HPD to be registered.

Before even looking at a firearm, individuals who aren’t authorized military personnel must attend one of two firearms training and safety courses in Hawaii:

  • A six-hour handgun safety course from a National Rifle Association certified instructor. This course includes practical firearm training.
  • A two-day hunter’s education class through the Department of Land and Natural Resources. This course does not include practical firearm training.

Individuals must complete one of the above requirements regardless of whether or not they took similar courses in other states, according to Carter Berlin, owner of OGC Tactical, a Honolulu gun shop.

Here’s a more detailed version of the permitting process:

  • After paying for the firearm, the individual shows the course affidavit and the receipt showing the gun’s details — including the make, model and serial number — to HPD.
  • Next, the individual completes the application, which includes a mental health waiver form, a fingerprint card and a background check.
  • HPD then screens the application in a two-week waiting period.
  • After the waiting period, HPD will tell the individual if and when he or she can pick up the permit.
  • Once the individual picks up the permit, he or she has five days to pick up the firearm from the shop and register it HPD. HPD registers the firearm after inspecting it.

HPD does all of the screening and verification steps, according to Berlin.

All arrests appear on background checks, which are run through the Criminal Justice Information System, said HPD’s Yu.

“Any pending case involving a crime of violence will result in the denial of a permit pending the outcome of the case,” she said.

Gun shops are, by law, only responsible for notifying the HPD when a firearms transaction occurs.

But some local gun shops take extra measures to ensure safe transactions and to make it easier for the HPD.

OGC Tactical keeps HPD posted at every step, says Berlin, notifying the department of all initial purchases and subsequent transactions. The store will even fax the HPD to inform them that a pistol has been picked up to make sure the registration process runs smoothly.

Magnum Firearms and Range, a shop located on Queen Street, doesn’t even let interested individuals touch a firearm until they’ve been cleared by the HPD.

“Any firearm in the wrong hands is dangerous,” said Art Ong, Magnum president. “It’s not law, but we are a little more restrictive because we don’t just want to hand anyone firearms.”


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