A state Senate committee on Thursday gave police more power to seize guns from potentially dangerous people. But lawmakers also softened the consequences for people who fail to register their guns as required by law.

A third bill that would have prohibited people on the federal terrorist watchlist from possessing a gun or ammunition was deferred, effectively killing it. A similar bill is still alive in the House.

Senate Bill 898, which would give law enforcement officers more power to seize guns, passed the Senate public safety committee despite opposition from the National Rifle Association and gun rights activists who testified at the hearing.

The bill allows law enforcement officers to seize a person’s firearms if the person is found to pose “a serious risk of violence or harm to public safety.”

It requires police to have a warrant before taking a weapon. A court hearing would be required within 30 days of the seizure and a judge would determine whether the gun should be returned.

Harvey Gerwig of the NRA Hawaii chapter testified against the bill, citing concerns that it did not require law enforcement to provide sufficient evidence that a person poses a danger.

Second Amendment supporters at the State Capitol on opening day of the 2016 session. A number of gun rights activists submitted testimony for gun-related bills this year. Cory Lum/Civil Beat

“They can lose their rights permanently under this bill for simply being at risk of committing something, not for committing a crime,” he said, adding that the minimal level of evidence required under the bill to confiscate a firearm was “unconscionable.”

Hawaii law disqualifies certain people from possessing guns, including those convicted of a felony, acquitted of a crime due to a mental disorder, or subject to a restraining order.

Current legislation leaves a “gap,” the Department of the Attorney General wrote in testimony in support of the bill.

“The purpose of this bill is to prevent crimes from happening,” Karen Droscoski, a deputy attorney general, said at the hearing.

If a person is known to be dangerous but does not fit into one of the legal categories, they can still possess a firearm, she said. The idea is to remove the firearm from a dangerous person before a crime is committed.

She added that the point of the bill is to prevent mass shootings.

Honolulu, Kauai and Hawaii County police agencies submitted testimony in support of the bill.

SB 898 is scheduled to go to the Senate Judiciary Committee next.

second bill related to gun use heard at Thursday’s committee meeting would amend the process of firearm registration.

With a few exceptions, all firearms in the state, whether bought here or brought here, need to be registered with the local chief of police within five days.

Senate Bill 1036 would allow people to register the firearm after the five-day deadline with no penalty.

Sen. Clarence Nishihara introduced the bill, and it has a companion measure in the House.

The Honolulu Police Department supports the bill, as does the NRA.

The NRA, however, requested an amendment to clarify that owners do not need to keep re-registering their guns.

“We think this is a very positive bill,” Gerwig said at the hearing. “It will allow people to take guns into HPD without the fear of penalty and register them.”

SB 1036 also is scheduled to move to the Judiciary Committee.

Sen Clarence NIshihara Cop camera conf commitee1. 26 april 2016.
Clarence Nishihara, chair of the Senate public safety committee, introduced several gun-related bills this year. Cory Lum/Civil Beat

Senate Bill 280, which was deferred indefinitely after Thursday’s hearing, would have made it illegal for anyone listed in the federal Terrorist Screening Database to own, possess or use a firearm or ammunition in the state.

Regulated by the FBI, the terrorist watchlist was created in 2003 under the Bush administration following the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.

Introduced by Sen. Ron Kouchi, the bill has a companion measure in the House. A similar bill also died in the Legislature last year.

Below is a list of gun-related bills introduced this year in the House and Senate, along with brief descriptions. The names of lawmakers who introduced the measures are in parentheses.

House bills: 

HB 410 – Amends law requiring police chief to grant handgun and ammunition licenses to qualified applicants. (Sam Kong)

HB 36 – Amends law requiring police chief to grant handgun and ammunition licenses to qualified applicants, and extends licenses expiration date from one to five years.(Scott Nishimoto)

HB 459 – Requires law enforcement agency be notified of the identity of anyone who applies for a firearm permit but is denied as the result of state or federal prohibition. (Gregg Takayama)

HB 802 – If someone unlawfully attempts to purchase a firearm from licensed seller, would require seller to report the attempt to police. (Chris Lee)

HB 1032 –Allows law enforcement officers with a warrant to take firearms or ammunition from a person found by officers to pose a risk of violence to public safety. (Joe Souki)

HB 1205 – Protects shooting range operators and users from certain prosecution relating to noise. (Bob McDermott)

HB 1345  – Would make ownership or use of a firearm for anyone on the Terrorist Screening Database illegal. (Joe Souki)

HB 1583 – Established process for law enforcement officers, family or household members to prevent a person found to pose a danger  from accessing firearms and ammunition. (Chris Lee)

HB 1176 – Would allow people to register the firearm after the five day registration period at no penalty. (Gregg Takayama)

HB 1589 – Changes hunting firearm laws to allow manufacture and sale of firearm noise suppressors while hunting. (Ryan Yamane)

Senate bills: 

SB 9 – Creates and funds a state firearm insurance program and requires gun owners to obtain insurance. (Josh Green)

SB 212 – Amends process of licensing firearms. (Mike Gabbard)

SB 213  – Increases the legal pistol magazine capacity from 10 to 17 rounds. (Mike Gabbard)

SB 876 – Eliminates waiting period for registered firearm owners in the state when owners seek to purchase another firearm. (Les Ihara)

SB 1035 – Provides concealed weapon exemptions to adult correctional officers. (Clarence Nishihara) 

SB 1037 – Requires agencies be notified of the identity of anyone who applies for a firearm permit but is denied as the result of state or federal prohibition. (Clarence Nishihara) 

About the Author