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Hawaii gun group aims to sue over ‘red flag’ law

A handgun. (Pixabay/Released)

Lawmakers have approved a proposed “red flag” law for Hawaii that is designed to keep firearms away from people who may pose a danger to themselves or others, but the Hawaii Rifle Association says it will sue the state if Gov. David Ige signs the measure into law.

Senate Judiciary Chairman Karl Rhoads said is meant to help prevent mass shootings such as the Xerox Corporation murders on Nov. 2, 1999, when Byran Uyesugi shot and killed his boss and six other fellow employees at the Xerox warehouse on Nimitz Highway. Uyesugi was sentenced to life in prison for the murders.

The bill is an effort to cope with the problem of people who buy guns legally, and then “go bad and commit felonies” that may even include mass shootings, Rhoads said.

Uyesugi, for example, owned two dozen guns but believed one of his Xerox co-workers was an FBI agent, and believed the FBI and CIA had surveillance equipment in his car and his bathtub drain, according to court records.

“It’s very difficult to do anything about people like that because up to the point that they bought the gun, they were perfectly normal, upstanding, law-abiding citizens,” Rhoads said.

SB 1466 would create a process that police or family members could use to petition Family Court for a protective order to prevent a person from accessing firearms if that person “poses a danger of causing bodily injury” to anyone, including himself or herself.

Factors that could be considered by the court would include reckless or illegal use or display of a firearm, acts of violence or threats, abuse of drugs or alcohol, or violation of a protective order. Police would collect the firearms at the time the orders are served on the gun owners.

The measure has been opposed by the National Rifle Association, which argued “these orders would lack due process, contain low evidentiary standards, and fall well below the norm for removing constitutional rights.”

Harvey Gerwig, president of the Hawaii Rifle Association, said the proposed law “is completely against the Constitution,” and will not solve the problem of mass shootings.

“With no crime committed, you lose all your constitutional rights and your property is confiscated,” Gerwig said. “Absolutely unconstitutional.”

“I understand that the legislators feel pressure, that you’ve got to stop this from happening,” he said, referring to mass shootings. “I get that, but the problem is that this type of legislation will do absolutely nothing to stop mass shootings. It will do virtually nothing to stop spousal abuse. If somebody’s going to commit a crime like that, they’re going to go get a gun and they’re going to do it — an illegal gun.”

Gerwig said it would make more sense for lawmakers to take steps to cope with the problem of trafficking in illegal firearms.

If Ige signs SB 1466 into law, the HRA will challenge the new law in court, “and that will be a national challenge, not just Hawaii, because this is being put forth in several other states as well,” he said. “There is no constitutional provision that would ever allow this to happen. (Lawmakers) are just doing it because it’s a one-party system.”

Rhoads said he is “quite confident” the red flag law would be upheld in court, and said 14 other states already have similar laws. “I’d be very surprised if it didn’t withstand a court challenge,” he said.

The proposed new law would create a legal process for gun owners to go to court to challenge the protective order, he said.

“I think the reason it will be constitutional is there is due process,” Rhoads said. “We have the right to put reasonable restrictions on it, but none of the constitutional rights are absolute, and certainly this one isn’t either.”

Ige has already signed one bill into law that was unpopular with some gun owners.

On Wednesday he signed , which requires that gun owners

report lost, stolen or destroyed firearms to police within 24 hours of discovering the loss of the weapon.

“This reporting process will increase accountability and strengthen public safety measures,” said Ige said in a statement. “This will help police officers in situations involving firearm ownership and possession, and it will protect firearm owners if their lost or stolen firearm was used in a crime.”

Anyone who intentionally fails to report a lost firearm could face petty misdemeanor or misdemeanor charges, or could be prohibited from registering, possessing or owning a firearm, according to the new law.


© 2019 The Honolulu Star-Advertiser

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