Some of the more restrictive measures to further tighten Hawaii’s already stringent gun laws are among dozens of bills failing to pass as the Legislature gets ready to wrap business in three weeks.

Bills that would have banned rifle magazines greater than 10 rounds and any gun that could fire 50-caliber rounds or more have stalled for this legislative session. 

Most police reform measures have also failed this session, as have efforts to legalize recreational use of marijuana.

Even more bills could die between now and April 29, the day lawmakers are scheduled to adjourn the 2021 session. 

House members take their oath of office on opening day of the 2021 legislature.
Lawmakers will further winnow bills as the legislative session approaches its end. Cory Lum/Civil Beat/2021

The gun measures this year faced heavy opposition from local activists. Most vocal has been the Hawaii Firearms Coalition, which mobilized hundreds of its members to submit testimony to lawmakers opposing a variety of measures.

Senate Bill 301 would ban 10-round magazines while Senate Bill 307 would eliminate any firearm capable of shooting a 50-caliber round.

Both bills had a single referral to Rep. Mark Nakashima’s Judiciary and Hawaiian Affairs Committee but failed to get a hearing by a legislative deadline Friday afternoon.

Nakashima said in February that he wasn’t inclined to hear SB 301, noting gun reforms that the Legislature passed in previous sessions.

The House killed a similar measure in 2020, citing a pending California court case over magazine capacity bans. Todd Yukatake, an assistant director with the Hawaii Firearms Coalition, also pointed to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals case Duncan v. Becerra as a reason to hold the bill.

SB 307, the ban on 50-caliber firearm, is also too broad, according to Yukatake. The bill could also capture some revolvers and big-game hunting rifles.

Sen. Karl Rhoads, who introduced the bill, has previously said the intent of banning weapons that can fire those large rounds was to prevent someone from sniping at people from more than a mile away.

“There’s few people in the world that can do that,” Yukatake said. “It’s not the rifle. It’s the skill of the person using it.”

The Senate on Tuesday is expected to take up measures regarding storage of firearms and a ban on so-called “ghost guns,” firearms assembled at home from various parts.

No New Police Data

Several other law enforcement measures are now dead.

Senate Bill 742 would require county police departments to collect more data on each police stop, arrest and use of force incident. The data would be used to inform police policies going forward, but the police chiefs of each of Hawaii’s four departments raised concerns that the addresses of crime victims might be revealed.

Under SB 742, the departments would be required to compile an annual report with all the data points requested in the bill, among them, the addresses of individuals who called police to report a crime.

The bill had the support of the American Civil Liberties Union Hawaii, which pushed for the measure in the wake of reports that Honolulu police disproportionately arrested and used force against Micronesians, Blacks, Samoans, Native Hawaiians and other Pacific Islanders.

SB 742 needed to clear Nakashima’s committee earlier this session by March 25, but he said Friday that he never scheduled the bill for a hearing because neither the advocacy organizations pushing for the bill nor the bill’s author asked him to move it forward.

Black Lives Matter supporters hold signs along Beretania Street fronting the Capitol.
Despite the national outcry for police reform in 2020, most measures in Hawaii failed to gain traction. Cory Lum/Civil Beat/2020

“There are a lot of bills that come through, so if there are any kinds if requests to hear those, I try to hear those,” Nakashima said. “On this (SB 742), we got nothing.”

Though he didn’t schedule the bill, Nakashima said he is supportive of police collecting more data.

Meanwhile, Nakashima’s committee on Friday moved along Senate Bill 726, a ban on no-knock warrants in Hawaii. The bill and others like it in the U.S. were pushed forward after the police killing of Breonna Taylor, a Louisville, Kentucky, emergency worker who was shot to death in a botched police raid.

Though that bill moved forward, the Legislature largely dropped the ball on advancing police reform measures this session, despite nationwide calls for better accountability in policing. Bills to allow citizens to record police, ban chokeholds and eliminate the use of military-style equipment by police departments all dropped off earlier this session.

Pot Bills Die, Again

Hawaii also should not expect recreational pakalolo stores anytime soon. 

Senate Bill 676 cleared the Senate in early March but never got a hearing in the House. The bill would have allowed anyone 21 years of age and older to possess a small amount of marijuana that could be purchased from dispensaries licensed under a state-run program.

And Hawaii lawmakers don’t appear ready yet to further decriminalize larger amounts of marijuana.

In 2019, lawmakers decriminalized the possession of up to 3 grams of weed. Senate Bill 758 sought to increase that amount more than eightfold. Like SB 676, the decriminalization measure also never got a House hearing.

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