Hawaii had the fewest non-fatal injuries from firearms in 2010 in a comparison of 18 states, including California, New York and Florida, a new study shows.

The report found that states with stricter gun-control laws — regulating guns and ammo, requiring background checks before sales, reporting lost or stolen firearms and keeping dangerous people from buying weapons — had the lowest injury rates.

It was published in the August edition of the American Journal of Public Health.

Hawaii had lowest injury rate — 3.3 non-fatal gun injuries per 100,000 people.

gun-related injuries by state

Marina Riker/Civil Beat

That compares with an average of 19 non-fatal injuries for the 18 states studied. South Carolina had the highest rate with 36.6 per 100,000 people.

An expert on injury prevention and control at the Hawaii Department of Health said the study’s numbers for Hawaii were “roughly comparable” with local statistics.

“Working backwards from the Hawaii rate of 3.3 translates to about 45 injuries in 2010,” epidemiologist Daniel Galanis said via email. “My data source — Hawaii Health Information Corporation — has 43 nonfatal injuries that year.”

To avoid duplicate counting of incidents, Galanis said he deleted patients who were transferred to another hospital when they were discharged. There is no mention of transferred patients in the journal paper.

“This is a very safe state, and Honolulu is a very safe city, and people understand that is because we have strict laws.” — Sen. Will Espero

Hawaii’s statistics on gunshot injuries did not come as a surprise to state lawmakers familiar with public safety and gun control.

“We do have strict gun laws,” said Sen. Will Espero, vice chair of the Public Safety, Intergovernmental and Military Affairs Committee. “This is a very safe state, and Honolulu is a very safe city, and people understand that is because we have strict laws.”

Espero, a Democrat, added, “The majority are not asking for change, and I don’t expect us to.”

But Sen. Sam Slom, a Republican who sits on the Public Safety Committee, had a different take on Hawaii’s stats for non-lethal gun injuries.

“I don’t attribute it to gun laws but to responsible gun owners in this state, and a good gun education program that comes from the NRA and the Hawaii Rifle Association and so forth,” Slom said.

The Studies

The new study looked at people who had been treated for a firearm injury — assault-related, self-inflicted, unintentional and undetermined — in 2010 and were discharged from a medical facility.

It also considered the strictness of gun legislation in those states by using scorecards created by the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence.

“I don’t attribute it to gun laws but to responsible gun owners in this state, and a good gun education program.” —Sen. Sam Slom

James Brady, who died last year, was the press secretary for President Ronald Reagan. Brady was wounded and disabled by the 1981 assassination attempt that almost took Reagan’s life and later became a strong advocate for gun control.

According to the Brady Campaign’s 2013 scorecard, Hawaii was one of only seven states to place in the Top 10 for states with strongest gun laws (No. 7) and states with the lowest gun death rates (No. 1).

Brady gave Hawaii an overall grade of B-plus, the same grade earned by Massachusetts. California, New Jersey, Maryland, Connecticut and New York each received A-minuses.

Brady Campaign 2013 gun scorecard

Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence

Nearly every state in the South, including South Carolina, and the Midwest, received F or D grades.

Crunching the data, the authors of the American Journal of Public Health study concluded that stricter gun laws reduce non-fatal firearm injuries:

“These findings have implications beyond the physical and psychological impact of firearm injuries on survivors. Recent estimates have suggested that the societal cost of nonfatal firearm injuries in 2010 approached $20 billion. … Most of this economic burden falls on taxpayers via costs directed toward Medicare, Medicaid, and the uninsured.”

The study did not report on what are known as “legal intervention” shootings, meaning by law enforcement and security guards.

Galanis, the DOH epidemiologist, says about 10 percent of Hawaii’s non-fatal gun injuries in 2010 were categorized as legal interventions.

The Laws

Gun laws in the islands are covered under Hawaii Revised Statutes Chapter 134: Firearms, Ammunition and Dangerous Weapons.

They include laws regarding seizure of firearms in domestic abuse situations; prohibition of automatic firearms, silencers and Teflon-coated ammo; and requirements on storage of firearms to keep them away from minors (although there is an exemption for state and county law enforcement officers and others).

New gun laws crop up at the Hawaii Legislature every session, but few pass.

City and County EMS ambulance heads down Beretania Street near Chinatown with sirens and lights flashing. 4 june 2015. photograph Cory Lum/Civil Beat

An EMS ambulance heads down Beretania Street near Chinatown.

Cory Lum/Civil Beat

Among the measures introduced this year but not surviving were bills forbidding law enforcement officers from consuming any amount of alcohol while in possession or control of a firearm, and including  misdemeanor stalking and sexual assault among the offenses that disqualify a person from owning, possessing or controlling any firearm or ammunition.

One piece of legislation that made it all the way to the final days of the session before being abruptly shelved was a bill making it a petty misdemeanor for a person who is intoxicated to recklessly possess a loaded firearm.

Slom has consistently backed legislation to allow concealing and carrying a gun, but the Honolulu Police Department has invariably testified against the idea. He has also sought to remove schools from gun-free zones so that guards, teachers and administrators who are trained and willing could defend the facilities and the people in them.

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