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Hawaii lawmakers move to ban high-capacity rifle magazines

July 4th range day (Mitch Barrie/Flickr)

Two House committees Thursday gave preliminary approval to a bill that would ban high-capacity rifle magazines that can hold more than 10 rounds of ammunition but scrapped a bill that would have made it a petty misdemeanor to possess a loaded firearm while intoxicated.

It was a busy day at the state Capitol for gun issues, with the Senate Committee on Public Safety, Intergovernmental and Military Affairs and the joint House Committee on Public Safety, Veterans and Military Affairs and House Committee on Judiciary hearing hours of testimony from gun rights advocates, the Honolulu Police Department and others on various sides of 18 gun-related bills, some of which overlapped between the House and Senate committees.

Many of the people testifying referred to mass shootings on the mainland and recent local shootings at Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard and at Hibiscus Drive to make their arguments for and against the various bills.

House Public Safety Committee Chairman Gregg Takayama said the proposed ban on large-capacity magazines for rifles in would match Hawaii’s long-standing restriction on large-capacity magazines for handguns. If approved, the new law would prohibit anyone other than law enforcement officials from possessing rifle magazines that can hold more than 10 bullets.

Takayama said the bill was proposed by the Honolulu Police Department because a number of mass shootings on the mainland were interrupted when the shooters had to pause briefly to reload by changing magazines.

Limiting the size of rifle magazines to 10 rounds “gives the police that split-second opportunity to intervene in a mass shooting, and it could potentially save lives,” said Takayama (D, Pearl City-Waimalu-Pacific Palisades).

House Judiciary Chairman Chris Lee said another concern is that mass shootings around the country increasingly involve high-capacity magazines loaded into assault-style semi-automatic rifles “that are able to kill people extremely quickly with extreme efficiency, and that’s something that is really a problem for law enforcement, who are finding themselves outgunned.”

“So, to the extent that we can limit the availability of those kinds of weapons and empower law enforcement, that’s a step forward that can hopefully save lives,” Lee said.

But opponents of the bill said there are many thousands of legally owned large-capacity magazines in Hawaii, and predicted the ban will be ineffective.

“You’re going to make an arbitrary number, a limit on magazine capacity, on how I can exercise my inherent right to self-defense,” said Daniel Reid, western regional director for the National Rifle Association.

“At the end of the day, this isn’t going to impact criminals. Criminals are already ignoring the numerous gun laws that are on the books, including (restrictions on) possession.”

The measure now goes to the full House for further consideration.

The House committees also approved , which requires that gun owners present proof that they own a legally registered firearm before they can buy ammunition for that weapon.

The House committees also passed:

>> , which would make it a Class C felony to purchase, manufacture or even obtain parts that could be assembled into a firearm with no serial number — or a so-called ghost gun. Lee said the proposed law would require that those weapons have serial numbers so that they can be traced.

>> , which as amended would create the “Gun Violence and Violent Crimes Commission.” Lee said that commission will be made up of law enforcement officers, prosecutors and mental health professionals.

>> , which would require representatives of dead gun owners to notify local police of every firearm in the estate.

At the same time, the House committees also shelved , which would have made it a petty misdemeanor for anyone to possess a loaded firearm while intoxicated unless the person was in his or her own home.

The Senate Committee on Public Safety, Intergovernmental and Military Affairs also heard five firearm-related bills on Thursday, but deferred action on those measures until today at 12:30 p.m.


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