Lawmakers Seek Stricter Gun Control Following Deaths of Honolulu Police Officers

February 5, 2020, 11:32 AM HST · Updated February 5, 11:32 AM
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Photo courtesy: Hawaiʻi State Legislature.

A shooting incident that killed two Honolulu Police Officers last month is prompting lawmakers to prevent those suffering from mental illness from securing firearms.

During a press conference today, House and Senate legislators, law enforcement officers and state officials discussed the collaborative effort taking place this session to consider 18 bills related to gun violence prevention and improving mental health care.

According to Rep. Gregg Takayama, some of the measures were drafted before the Jan. 19 tragedy.

“That tragedy has heightened the urgency with which we are considering measures dealing with gun violence and mental health,” Takayama said in a press release.

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“Yes, we have some of the strongest gun laws in the country, but we are constantly on the lookout for loop holes to improve the safety of our officers and the public.”

Honolulu Police Chief Susan Ballard noted the need for providing necessary treatment to those suffering from mental illness.

“We are not against responsible gun ownership, but we need to keep them off the streets and out of the hands of people who are killings our citizens, killing our police officers,” Honolulu Police Chief Susan Ballard said.

“The mentally ill cannot make the decisions they need to make. We need to make sure we have treatment for those type of people whether they are housed, or homeless.”

Below is a list of gun violence prevention bills: 

  • HB 2709 Relating to the Uniform Probate Code

Requires a personal representative of a decedent appointed under the Uniform Probate Code to notify the police department of the appropriate county of any and all firearms in an estate.  Requires the police department to certify that all firearms in an estate are properly transferred or disposed of before the estate may close.

Prohibits any person from possessing a firearm while intoxicated, unless the person is in their own dwelling.  Violation is a petty misdemeanor.

  • HB 2710 Relating to Protective Orders

Permits a law enforcement officer to search a person convicted of violating certain TROs or protective orders, including the person’s motor vehicle and the person’s residence for firearms without obtaining a search warrant if the law enforcement officer has reason to believe acts of abuse, malicious property damage, or harassment by the person are imminent.

  • HB 1733/SB 2151 (HPD Package)  Relating to Firearms (“Ghost Guns”)

Makes it a Class C Felony to purchase, manufacture, or otherwise obtain firearm parts for the purpose of assembling a firearm having no serial number.  Amends certain requirements relating to firearms registration.

Prohibits the manufacture, possession, sale, barter, trade, gift, transfer, or acquisition of detachable ammunition magazines with a capacity in excess of ten rounds, regardless of the type of firearm with which the magazine is compatible.  Makes an exception for possession and use by law enforcement agencies and officers.

  • HB 2744 Relating to Gun Violence Prevention

Establish the Hawaii Gun Violence Prevention Center to assist law enforcement, analyze data, and conduct research necessary to help reduce gun violence.  Creates a special fund to support the Center.  Appropriates funds.

Recognizing gaps in Hawaiʻi’s mental health treatment System, the Legislature and key stakeholders are looking to improve access to community treatment options through criminal justice reforms to the assisted community treatment process, building out more community and State capacity options for mental health treatment, and addressing workforce shortages among mental health, behavioral health workers.

“There are significant gaps in our health care system that we need to address in order to prevent a tragedy like we saw last weekend,” said Edward Mersereau, State Department of Health, Deputy Director of Behavioral Health Services. “We can only do that with collaboration.”

Here is a list of bills aimed at strengthening Hawaiʻiʻs mental health system: 

  • HB 1619 Relating to Penal Responsibility

Authorizes the courts to enter into collaborative agreements to divert into residential, rehabilitative, and other treatment those defendants whose physical or mental disease, disorder or defect is believed to have become or will become an issue in a judicial case.

Amends the effect of finding a defendant charged with a misdemeanor or petty misdemeanor not involving violence or attempted violence unfit to proceed.  Amends the requirements for fitness determination hearings, court-appointed examiners, and examination reports.

  • Highlighted community capacity & bed capacity bills include:
  • SB 2505       Relating to Health

Requires & appropriates funds for DOH to establish a continuum of stabilization beds statewide for non-forensic patients with substance abuse or mental health disorders, or both, by repurposing unused state facilities.

  • HB 2522       Relating to Health

Requires DOH to establish short-term residential beds for the purpose of stabilization from mental health conditions or substance use and to assess patients and triage them to a clinically appropriate level of care through the Hawaii coordinate access resource entry system (CARES). Appropriates funds.

  • Highlighted workforce shortage bills include:
  • HB 2707 Relating to Mental Health

Establishes the behavioral health social worker scholarship program at UH, which requires recipients of the scholarship to commit to five years of service with DHS.  Appropriates funds.

  • HB 2524 Relating to the Department of Public Safety

Requires PSD to establish a mental health first aid training program that provides mandatory eight-hour sessions triennially for law enforcement, correctional officers, and other public safety officials under PSD.

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