Hawaii Senate unanimously approves controversial gun bill

rights activists submitted testimony for gun-related bills in January 2016. (Photo: Cory Lum/Civil Beat)

Gun rights supporters demonstrate outside the state Capitol on the first day of session in January 2016. (Photo: Cory Lum/Civil Beat)

The Hawaii Senate unanimously approved a proposal Tuesday that would allow law enforcement to seize firearms from owners considered “at-risk” of committing a violent crime.

The vote came amid staunch opposition from the National Rifle Association, state-based gun groups and concerned citizens — all of whom cited the proposal’s infringement on due process.

Specifically, the legislation stipulates police can seize guns from an owner with a court order issued through an ex-parte warrant application. A hearing to determine the owner’s permanent prohibition would occur within 30 days.

The idea, bill supporters say, is to prevent tragedies involving guns — namely, mass shootings.

“This bill allows law enforcement to take preventative action in situations where information is obtained on possible attacks being planned that involve firearms,” said David Nilsen, Acting Major of the Hawaii Police Department’s Records and Identification Division, in submitted testimony last month. “In today’s environment of terrorism, particularly ‘lone wolf’ terrorists and other active shooter situations, this is a powerful tool that law enforcement can use to protect our community from these attacks.”

But gun rights supporters argue the measure won’t stop violent crimes from occurring and a blame a “narrow view” of firearms as dangerous for prompting the legislation.

“On the practical side, it will not do what it pretends to want to do, which is protect the innocent,” said Hawaii resident Kory Ohly. “Taking away a legally owned firearm is not an effective way to prevent a violent crime. People who commit illegal acts such as attempted murder don’t do so because they think the act is legal. They do so in spite of laws, because they are out to do evil. And, sadly, increasing illegalities will not stop them.”

SB 898 now awaits vetting in the state House.