For the second year in a row Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Karl Rhoads is advancing a proposal to ban rifle magazines that hold more than 10 bullets, but the measure appears likely to fail in the state House.

Rhoads announced Wednesday he will amend Senate Bill 301 to remove language that would have banned assault rifles and “assault shotguns” after his committee was deluged with more than 1,200 pages of testimony. The vast majority of the testimony opposed the bill.

Instead, Rhoads said he will limit the scope of the bill to banning “large capacity” rifle magazines that hold more than 10 bullets. That proposal is an effort to limit the number of deaths and injuries that would be inflicted in the event of a mass shooting here, he said.

A young girl holds a sign at the State Capitol for the 2018 #MarchForOurLives rally. Sen. Karl Rhoads is again proposing a ban on large-capacity magazines to try to limit the carnage in the event of a mass shooting here, but the bill appears unlikely to pass. Anthony Quintano/Civil Beat

A number of other states already ban the large-capacity magazines, and New Jersey has prohibited them since 1990.

Pistol magazines that hold more than 10 rounds have been banned in Hawaii since 1991 for everyone except law enforcement officers. Both the House and Senate advanced bills last year to ban large capacity magazines for rifles as well, but those bills stalled.

And the large-capacity magazine ban appears likely to fail again this year. Newly appointed House Judiciary and Hawaiian Affairs Chairman Mark Nakashima said he is not inclined to hold a hearing on the bill, which means it will probably die again.

“I think that over the years there have been a lot of gun bills that we have adopted, and I, at this point, kind of shy away from any more gun regulation, but I will take a look at the bill and see what the committee reports say, and will make a decision at that point,” Nakashima said.

Nakashima represents the Hamakua District of Hawaii County, and said he has many friends who are hunters. “They’d rather not have any restraint to their Second Amendment rights,” he said.

Jon Webster Abbott, director of the Hawaii Firearms Coalition, said the proposal to ban the large-capacity magazines should be deferred at least until after a lawsuit challenging a similar ban in California is decided.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed a lower court’s preliminary injunction stopping enforcement of the California ban until that case — known as Duncan vs. Becerra — is resolved.

Hawaii already has some of the strictest gun control measures in the nation, and the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence announced this month it gave Hawaii an “A-” grade in 2020 for its gun laws.

Hawaii ranks fourth-lowest in the nation for firearms fatalities, but the Giffords center reports someone still dies from a firearm once every eight days here. About 72% of those deaths are suicides, according to the latest report.

When asked if Hawaii has gone too far in its firearms restrictions, Nakashima replied that “I don’t know that you can ever go too far, but for the time being I’d like to take a more moderate look at things rather than just outlawing everything in front of us.”

Nakashima has supported gun control measures in the past, including the 2018 bill that imposed a state ban on “bump stocks” that are used to modify certain rifles to simulate automatic weapons fire.

Join us for a virtual Legislative Update event to check-in with a panel of lawmakers halfway through the session:


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