Nearly one month ago, 17 students at a Florida high school were murdered by one of their peers. The collective pain of this and other such school massacres has triggered a nationwide, student-led movement to demand an end to gun violence.

Hawaii students are gearing up for a statewide, 17-minute walkout at 10 a.m. March 14 to commemorate the Marjory Stoneman Douglas shooting and honor its victims and survivors. This will be followed up by a “March For Our Lives” to take place 10 days later, and subsequent events all aimed at building momentum and support for meaningful gun reforms and an end to the culture that promotes gun violence.

Like politicians all across the country, Hawaii’s politicians must choose whether they will heed the demands of this awakening young voting bloc or continue to let special interests block these vital reforms.

In Hawaii, we are taking just one small step toward a future free of gun violence by asking legislators to ban “bump stocks,” and other modifications that increase the rate-of-fire of a firearm beyond what the manufacturer intended.

This is a gun control reform that everyone should be able to get behind. It does not infringe upon an individual’s reasonable right to bear arms.

Vice Chair Sen Karl Rhoads JDL meeting Capitol. Death/dying measure. 28 feb 2017
State Sen. Karl Rhoads is the lead author of a Senate bill that would prohibit multiburst trigger activators. Cory Lum/Civil Beat

It is, however, a reasonable regulation on a potentially dangerous piece of equipment that will limit the damage such a piece of equipment is able to inflict upon the public, either through intentional attack, or through accidental discharge.

Currently, House Bill 1908 and Senate Bill 2046 both seek to ban these types of rate-of-fire accelerator modifications.

It’s true that the bills aren’t perfect: The language can definitely be tightened up. However, we should all be able to agree that modifications that push a gun’s rate-of-fire beyond what was intended by the manufacturer, to the point where semi-automatic weapons can achieve rates-of-fire equivalent to a fully-automatic weapon, have no place in society.

After all, that is why fully-automatic weapons are heavily regulated by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, and why we distinguish between fully-automatic and semi-automatic weapons based on the rate-of-fire the weapon will allow.

A fully-automatic weapon allows for continuous fire as long as the trigger is depressed, whereas semi-automatic weapons require additional trigger pulls for each round fired. A modification like a “bump stock” simulates automatic fire by forcing the semi-automatic weapon to recoil against a person’s trigger finger, effectively nullifying the semi-automatic weapons’ one-round-per-trigger-pull function.

‘Ease-Of-Squeeze’ Triggers

Having attended multiple hearings for these two bills now, it is clear that the primary argument from Second Amendment activists is that the language in these bills could be interpreted to restrict other kinds of modifications to triggers that, rather than increase the rate-of-fire, simply make it easier to pull the trigger of whatever gun they are added too.

Citing personal injuries to trigger fingers, nerve damage in the wrist and old age or frailty as reasons for these “ease-of-squeeze” trigger modifications, the opposition makes a reasonable point.

I think it is perfectly fair for people with disabilities, or who are too weak to pull factory triggers on their licensed and legal firearms, to expect that they may modify their triggers so that they can still participate in their Second Amendment right to reasonably bear arms in the course of hunting, defending themselves and/or engaging in legal gun sports. However, I will also insist that it is absolutely reasonable for the rest of us to expect common-sense regulations on rate-of-fire-increasing modifications as well.

Rep Gregg Takayama. chad story. 27 april 2017
Rep. Gregg Takayama is the lead author of a bill prohibiting bump stocks as well as multi-burst trigger activators and trigger cranks. Cory Lum/Civil Beat/2017

I therefore call on gun-control activists and Second Amendment activists to work together to tighten the language in these bills.

Rather than attempting to list all of the different technical, jargon-based and/or colloquial terminology used to describe these kinds of modifications (which will allow for endless permutations and workarounds), let’s make it crystal clear that “any and all modifications that have the effect of increasing the rate-of-fire of any firearm beyond its factory manufactured rate are banned, and any individual found to have purchased, sold, imported, built or installed such a modification device on a firearm shall be guilty of a Class C felony,” while “any and all modifications to the trigger of a firearm that reduce the amount of force needed to pull said trigger, and that also have no effect whatsoever on the rate-of-fire of said firearm, shall be exempt from this statute.”

No one is talking about taking away legally obtained firearms that are appropriate for hunting, self-defense or legal gun sports.

This should give both sides what they want.

Just as we require seat belts, standardized written and road testing, periodic license renewal, vision testing, annual safety inspections and insurance for vehicles — regulations intended to limit the damage an individual can cause intentionally or accidentally — we ought to require common sense regulations on firearms for the exact same reason.

No one is talking about taking away legally obtained firearms that are appropriate for hunting, self-defense or legal gun sports. We’re simply talking about ensuring that there are no loopholes that could allow someone to effectively and legally turn a semi-automatic weapon into a machine gun.

To use the car analogy one more time, we’re not even asking for regulations consistent with seat belts, regular testing, safety inspections or insurance. All that we’re asking for is regulations consistent with preventing owners from attaching a rocket booster to the back of their cars like Batman. And I think that’s something that we should all be able to get behind.

So let’s show the nation that, here in Hawaii, gun-control activists and Second Amendment activists can work together, find common ground and uphold both the reasonable constitutional rights of gun-owners as well as the reasonable expectation of the general public to safety in our schools, on our streets and in our homes.

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