Taking Aim at Gun Control

27 07 2016

“Losing one officer is heartbreaking. Losing five officers is unimaginable. What happened in Dallas is a painful and personal reminder of how dangerous police work is.” This was the reaction of HPD Police Chief Louis Kealoha to the recent tragedy in Dallas, Texas where a gunman opened fire during a peaceful rally, killing five police officers and wounding seven others. Sadly, gun violence is fast becoming a way of life in our country. An even deadlier shooting happened several weeks earlier in Orlando, Florida, where an American-born gunman who had pledged allegiance to ISIS used an AR-15- type assault-style rifle to kill 50 people and injure dozens more in what was the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history.

A new study ranked Hawaii as having the lowest gun death rate in the nation. But despite the good news, can similar mass shootings happen here in paradise? The answer is yes—they have occurred and can do so again. Many of us can still vividly recall the Xerox shooting in 1999 where gunman Byron Uyesugi shot and killed seven of his co-workers.

Thankfully, the state last month passed three new laws that will certainly help improve public safety as far as gun violence is concerned. The first law set-up a database of firearms owners called the “Rap Back” system which notifies police whenever a gun owner is arrested for a crime anywhere in the U.S. This allows police to evaluate whether the owner may continue to legally possess and own firearms. Supporters say the database is needed because initial background checks were insufficient.

A second measure signed into state law prohibits those who have been convicted of stalking or committing sexual assault from owning guns, while a third new law requires gun owners to surrender their firearms and ammunition to the police if they’ve been disqualified to possess the weapons “due to a diagnosis of having a significant behavioral, emotional, or mental disorder, or due to emergency or involuntary admission to a psychiatric facility.” If the person does not voluntarily give up their arms, police officers have the right to seize the weapons.

These three laws will help to keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people and make our state a safer place to live but perhaps additional legislation is needed. According to HPD, Hawaii has a ban on “assault pistols” and “automatic weapons” but no ban on assault weapons. Perhaps it’s time to consider an outright ban on all assault weapons as well as on large-volume ammunition magazines. While lawful gun owners should be allowed to continue using their guns for sport, hunting and self-protection, the bottom line is that gun violence has claimed far too many innocent lives. The time for change is now. Let’s not wait for yet another mass shooting before we realize the need to take better aim at controlling gun violence.

In the words of Police Chief Kealoha, “I ask that the public continue to support our local law enforcement officers in their efforts to make Honolulu one of the safest cities in the nation. Rest assured that the Honolulu Police Department is committed to protecting the safety and rights of all residents and visitors.”

martin05


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