Hawaii already has the lowest gun death rates in the nation, but state lawmakers are looking to take gun control a step further.
House Bill 625 aims to prohibit firearm and ammunition sales to people who have been convicted of misdemeanor stalking or sexual assault. The bill will have its first hearing Thursday afternoon in the House Judiciary Committee.
Currently, state law prohibits the possession of firearms by people convicted of a violent crime or felony, convicted drug dealers, people with a history of drug or alcohol abuse, those under a restraining or protective order, and those who have been diagnosed with a mental or emotional disorder.
HB 625 would extend those regulations and Hawaii would join 11 states that already ban firearm sales to people convicted of misdemeanor stalking, according to the bill. Some of those states, including Washington, prevent sales only to those who have been convicted of stalking relatives or other household members.
Rep. Chris Lee, an introducer of the bill, said he’s had friends who had to get restraining orders against someone and believes that if stalking increases the chances of a violent incident, their victims need to be protected.
“Often stalking victims are targeted by people outside of their immediate family or their extended family,” Lee said. “It just makes sense to make sure that if someone is convicted of stalking someone else, they ought not to have access (to firearms and ammunition).”
Reps. Della Au Belatti, Cindy Evans and Matt LoPresti are also co-introducers of HB 625.
The bill references a 1999 study across 10 cities that found 76 percent of murdered women and 85 percent of survivors of murder attempts had been stalked by a current or previous intimate partner within a year of the attack.
HB 625 also pointed to statistics from the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research that found having a gun in the home increased the likelihood of intimate partner homicide by eight times. If the family had a history of domestic violence, the risk increased 20 times.
The bill was introduced last year, but carried over to the 2016 session.
In 2013, U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar introduced a bill that would have amended federal law to prevent gun sales to convicted stalkers, and the measure was co-sponsored by Hawaii Sen. Mazie Hirono.
The national movement to ban stalkers from buying guns has won support from some politicians on both sides of the aisle, but not everyone is applauding the effort.
The National Rifle Association sent a letter to lawmakers expressing its opposition to Klobuchar’s bill and said stalking wasn’t always indicative of violence, according to a letter obtained in 2014 by The Huffington Post.
In that letter, the NRA said the bill “manipulates emotionally compelling issues such as ‘domestic violence’ and ‘stalking’ simply to cast as wide a net as possible for federal firearm prohibitions.”