Garden Island: Some call for stricter laws, ban on assault weapons

February 16, 2018
In The News

After a mass shooting that killed 17 people at a southern Florida high school, legislators and residents in Hawaii are reassessing the effectiveness of state and federal gun laws.

Koloa resident Karen Cos said it should be more difficult for people to obtain guns, not withstanding the Second Amendment.

“I don’t think that anybody who wants to own a gun should be able to get a gun,” she said. “There has to be a reason that they can carry a gun. To end gun violence, it needs to be more difficult for guns to be obtained.”

Rockal Vanasihan of Kekaha is not sure how we can end gun violence in our country and doesn’t understand why people are allowed to own guns.

“I know it’s for safety reasons, because in the Mainland the crime rate is higher I guess,” she said. “I guess it’s safe for everybody, but you just never know what people intend to do.”

Jason Bryant, owner of JGB Arms in Lihue, said Hawaii has some of the most stringent gun laws in the nation.

“I cannot imagine a new piece of gun legislation beyond what Hawaii already has in place that could have prevented the evil that occurred in Parkland, Florida. I don’t believe a piece of paper can do anything to stop premeditated evil,” he said.

Some elected leaders called for a ban on assault weapons.

“The tragedy in Parkland is the latest reminder that Congress must advance gun violence prevention legislation, beginning with a ban on assault weapons and the significant expansion of background checks and waiting periods for potential buyers,” said U.S. Rep. Colleen Hanabusa. “It does not make sense to make military-grade weaponry available to civilians.”

Hanabusa co-sponsored the Assault Weapons Ban of 2013 (H.R. 437) introduced in the aftermath of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Connecticut that claimed the lives of 20 children and six adults. The bill would have amended the federal criminal code to ban the import, sale, manufacture, transfer or possession of semiautomatic assault weapons. However, the proposed bill did not receive a hearing.

“There is a balance that must be struck between reasonable gun control legislation and respecting the rights of law-abiding gun owners,” Hanabusa said. “The policies we have in Hawaii should be examined as a blueprint for federal gun-violence prevention legislation.”

Sen. Mazie Hirono said, “Thoughts, prayers, and moments of silence will not curb the epidemic of mass shootings in our country. Congress must enact legislation to ban assault weapons, limit the capacity of ammunition clips and strengthen background checks and reporting.”

In November, Hirono introduced legislation to close what she called a loophole in the Uniform Code of Military Justice that enables convicted abusers to purchase firearms. She is also co-sponsor of Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s Assault Weapons Ban of 2017 and legislation to ban high-capacity ammunition clips.

“There are tough questions that must be answered about the shooter, including why many red flags that were raised about him previously did not prevent his ability to acquire an AR-15 and a high volume of ammunition,” said Rep. Tulsi Gabbard. “But we don’t have to wait for answers to these questions for Congress to pass legislation already supported by a majority of Americans, like universal background checks, closing the gun show loophole and reinstating a federal ban on military-style assault weapons.”

“The stakes are too high to allow partisan politics to get in the way of common sense change,” she added.

Congressman Mike Thompson, chair of the Gun Violence Prevention Task Force, said “I am a gun owner. I support the Second Amendment. I also carried an assault weapon for a tour of duty in Vietnam. I know what they are used for. I know what they are capable of. And, personally, I believe there is no place in a civilized society to have these things. We don’t need them. We know the damage that they have done.”

Hawaii is one of the few states where firearms buyers are required to surrender their mental health records prior to firearm purchases. The state tracks legal sale of all firearms (including private sale of used firearms), bans sale and ownership of automatic firearms, allows confiscation of privately owned firearms (based purely on suspicion derived by law enforcement), and restricts accessibility of firearms from minors.

Some Kauai residents with friends and family in Florida have long referred to it as the Sunshine “Gunshine” State due to the peninsula’s gun-like borders, but also because the state has issued nearly 1.8-million active concealed permits, more than any other state in the Union.

Puhi’s Mona Green, originally from Spokane, Wash., said that we need to take away the hard automatic guns.

“I don’t think that we should be selling them in our country. There’s no need for them,” she said.

She said we need to put metal doors in classrooms that lock from the inside and talk openly with children and co-workers about violent situations that have been happening.

“We need to really look at the people that are next to us that might be suffering from different situations mentally, physically,” she added.

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