New Gun Control Measure, Registering Gun Owners in FBI Database, Considered in Hawaii

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Buyers browse firearms at the Houston Gun Show
Source: M&R Glasgow, “Gun Show,” flickr.com, Mar. 24, 2007

Hawaii State Senator Will Espero (D) introduced gun control legislation that would make Hawaii the first state to register gun owners with an FBI database.

Anyone buying a firearm in Hawaii, or bringing one into the state, is already required to register the gun with the county chief of police, which includes a background check with fingerprints and a photograph. Espero’s bill would use the information from the county registration form, along with a to-be-determined fee paid by the gun owner, to enroll the owner in the FBI’s “Rap Back” Database.

The “Rap Back” database, part of the FBI’s Next Generation Identification program (launched in 2011), is currently used to across the nation to keep track of people in “positions of trust,” such as teachers, bus drivers, and those who work with the elderly, and notifies law enforcement when a registered individual is arrested for criminal (and, in limited cases, civil) activity in any state.

Governor David Ige (D) has asked Hawaii’s Attorney General’s office to review Espero’s Senate bill 2954 for constitutionality. In addition to the federal Second Amendment, Hawaii’s State Constitution includes the “right of the people to keep and bear arms.” According to a study by the Boston University School of Public Health, Hawaii has the lowest US gun ownership rate at 12.2%.

State Senator Espero states, “It’s about information sharing… [Gun owners are] in the state and county database, this measure will give that information to the FBI and put it into a federal database.” Espero further explained that “minor crimes,” such as traffic violations, would not cause the database to notify law enforcement but “[a]ssault, domestic violence, stalking, those very serious and violent crimes… We’d like to know the status of these individuals.”

Major Richard Robinson of the Honolulu Police Department helped draft the bill and believes the registration will benefit police officers because, right now, police do not know if someone has been disqualified from owning a gun unless that person purchases a new gun. He stated, “We’re only discovering things by accident… They happen to come register another firearm, we run another background check, and then we find out they’re a prohibited person.” Robinson says this happens approximately 20 times a year and, with the database, law enforcement could know about disqualified gun owners more quickly.

Kenneth Lawson, JD, Associate Faculty Specialist at the University of Hawaii at Manoa’s William S. Richardson School of Law, states that the bill could be an infringement of rights: “You’re curtailing that right [to own a firearm] by requiring that a name be entered into a database without doing anything wrong.” He stated that bus drivers and teachers being in the database is not a problem because they choose to have those jobs, “[b]ut there’s a constitutional right for me to own a weapon and own a gun.”

Jerry Ilo, a firearms instructor for the State of Hawaii, stated, “I don’t like the idea of us being entered into a database. It basically tells us that they know where the guns are, they can go grab them… We get the feeling that Big Brother is watching us.”

Amy Hunter, Public Affairs Spokesperson for the National Rifle Association, stated, “This is an extremely dangerous bill. Exercising a constitutional right is not inherently suspicious. Hawaii will now be treating firearms as suspect and subject to constant monitoring.”

Compare the 2016 presidential candidates’ views on new gun control measures.

Sources:

Associated Press, “Hawaii Proposed Becoming First State to Put All Gun Owners in Federal Database,” nbcnews.com, May 25, 2016

Christina Beck, “Gun Owners Must Register with the FBI? Hawaii Mulls First-in-Nation Law,” csmonitor.com, May 24, 2016

FBI, “Next Generation Identification (NGI),” fbi.gov (accessed May 31, 2016)

Natalie Johnson, “Hawaii Might Become First State to Register Gun Owners in FBI Database,” freebeacon.com, May 25, 2016

Lynn Kawano, “Hawaii Could Be First to Put Gun Owners in National FBI Database,” hawaiinewsnow.com, May 24, 2016

KOAA, “Hawaii Considers Gun Database,” koaa.com, May 25, 2016

Marina Starleaf, “Hawaii Could Be First to Put Gun Owners in Federal Database,” salon.com, May 24, 2016