Maui leaders, gun groups at odds over local Taser rules; council blasts lawsuit
April 1, 2022, 4:26 PM HST
* Updated April 3, 7:26 AM
Maui County Council and local gun groups are pitted against one another over a legal path for people to purchase Tasers and other electric guns.
The groups are saying the county is adding more restrictions to the future sale of Tasers than already exist with lethal firearms. Also, they allege leaders are lagging on legislation to make transactions legal because they’re anti-electric guns.
After the gun groups filed a lawsuit against the county and the council this week, officials shot it down during a council meeting Friday, saying it is “frivolous” and a “waste of taxpayer money.”
Then, council members voted 9-0 to approve on first reading a pair of bills that would create rules for the sale and transfer of electric guns and cartridges in Maui County. It now heads to second reading.
County officials during the meeting said the council is following regular timelines and protocols for enacting legislation to regulate future sales. After all, the state law that ensures electric gun sales only went into effect Jan. 1 of this year.
However, local gun groups maintain that their lawsuit has merit.
“(Maui County Council is) doing everything they can to prevent this, and that’s why (the lawsuit) is not frivolous,” Mark Redeker, owner of Maui Ammo and Gun Supply, told Maui Now after the vote Friday. “That’s why we’re trying to say, ‘You got to stop this.’ All the other counties are issuing permits, and they didn’t do all this rigmarole.”
The lawsuit was filed in federal court for the District of Hawaiʻi this week on behalf of Maui Ammo and Gun Supply, Hawaiʻi Firearms Coalition, Christy Gusman and others.
It is needed to “force the county to start issuing electric gun dealers licenses,” according to Hawaiʻi Firearms Coalition. Without it, there is no legal means for anyone on Maui to purchase an electric gun.
Redeker, who is also a Maui Police commissioner, said Maui resident Gusman wants to have a Taser after she was assaulted and robbed three years ago.
“The story isn’t that Mark Redeker of Maui Ammo and Gun Supply wants to sell Tasers,” he said. “The real story is how these people are violating the civil rights of the citizens of Maui and preventing them from having something that is approved by law.”
Redeker added that the council had been mulling in committee ways to add hefty insurance rules and unreasonable background checks, which surpass rules for obtaining lethal firearms.
A lawyer for the county questioned the motives behind the lawsuit, though.
Deputy Corporation Counsel Keola Whittaker during Friday’s meeting alleged that the groups want to take credit for forcing the council’s hand.
“I suspect the lawsuit was only filed so that gun-rights organizations and its members can take credit for an ordinance that you were going to pass anyway,” Whittaker said. “To be frank, chair, it’s sad that a pro-gun group wants to cost the taxpayers of Maui County money by filing an unnecessary and frivolous lawsuit that will be moot in a matter of weeks just for their own political gain.”
“You are on solid legal ground,” he told council members.
Once the bills are passed, which the council was planning to do anyway, the lawsuit will likely be dismissed, Whittaker added.
“So let me be clear that you’re going to pass this ordinance; you’re passing it in normal course; you’re not doing it because you’re forced to do it,” he said.
Council Vice Chairwoman Keani Rawlins-Fernandez said members are going through proper motions to follow state law.
“Mahalo to our attorneys for calling it out for what it is,” she said. “And shame on Maui Ammo and Gun Supply, Hawaii Firearms Coalition and Christy Gusman for this frivolous lawsuit wasting our taxpayer dollars.”
Council Member Tasha Kama said members are supporting Bills 39 and 40 because it’s the “right thing to do,” not because people are trying to force council into it.
“It’s a state law and therefore we are only supporting the implementation of that law,” she said. “When it came to us, we got on it as soon as we could.”
In the end, Redeker said the groups support the state law and want their lawsuit to ensure the county enacts similar legislation.
“I hope that the county is forced to do a reasonable law,” he said. “I mean to put something reasonable out there that people can comply with. What they’re doing now is nuts.”