HONOLULU, Hawaii – While the issue of gun control has made little headway in Congress, Hawaii this week enacted a series of gun laws, one of which the governor says makes it the first state to put firearm owners into a database.
That database, which is called the “Rap Back” system, is operated by the FBI and would notify police when a gun owner is arrested for a crime anywhere in the United States.
“This will allow county police departments in Hawaii to evaluate whether the firearm owner may continue to legally possess and own firearms,” the Hawaii governor’s office said in a statement.
“This is about our community’s safety and responsible gun ownership,” Gov. David Ige in a statement. “This system will better enable our law enforcement agencies to ensure the security of all Hawaii residents and visitors to our islands.”
Ige and the majority of the Hawaii state legislators are Democrats.
The NRA expressed its displeasure with the new state law tweeting: “Exercising constitutional rights in #Hawaii now gets you entered into a federal watchlist, er, database.”
During the public comment process regarding the bill, opponent Quentin Kealoha asked: “Why are law abiding citizens exercising their constitutional right being entered into a criminal database? Would you enter people exercising their right to free speech into a criminal database?”
Supporters countered that adding gun owners to the database was needed because the initial background check wasn’t sufficient.
Maj. Richard Robinson from the Honolulu Police Department wrote that after the initial background check, there are no further checks on the gun owner.
“As a result, the county police departments have no way of knowing if a current Hawaii firearm owner has been convicted of a crime in another state that would prohibit him or her from owning a firearm,” Robinson wrote in a letter to the State House in March. The new law would “in essence provide an ongoing background check on firearm owners to determine their eligibility to own and possess a firearm.”
Gun law applauded by Giffords
The other gun measures signed into Hawaii state law Thursday prohibit offenders who have stalked or committed sexual assault from owning guns. At least 11 other states have some sort of laws restricting people who’ve been convicted of stalking from possessing guns.
The new Hawaii law was praised by former U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, who was critically injured in a shooting, and her husband Mark Kelly. They are advocates for tighter gun laws.
“This is a major victory for common sense and another defeat for the gun lobby,” they said in a statement from their political action committee, Americans for Responsible Solutions. Giffords and Kelly said the law “will help guns out of the hands of dangerous people, and make Hawaii a safer place to live.”
The third new law requires gun owners to surrender their firearms and ammunition to the police if they’ve been disqualified to possess the weapons “due to a diagnosis of having a significant behavioral, emotional, or mental disorder, or due to emergency or involuntary admission to a psychiatric facility.”
If the person does not voluntarily give up their arms, the police chief has permission to seize the weapons.