Senate Bill 301 Update: Expanding Hawaii’s Gun Laws

Picture of a woman shooting a rifle

By: J. S.

Senate Bill 301, a bill to expand Hawaii’s current gun bans, passed through the Hawaii State legislature over the last month, largely unmentioned by mainstream news sources. Described as a bill that will “expand the ban on pistols with a detachable magazine with over ten round capacity to any firearm with a detachable magazine with over ten round capacity,” the bill garnered opposition from both individuals and groups across the state. As of the Senate’s public hearing on February 12 via livestream, SB 301 had garnered over 1,000 pieces of testimony in opposition to its passing. Senator Karl Rhoads stated during the Senate’s livestream that testimony “was running overwhelmingly against the bill, [with] over 1,000 testifiers against it, and it’s running about 100 to 1 against.” Those interested in viewing the full video of Senators’ discussion and questions, as well as public testimony for and against the bill can do so here, beginning at minute 38:00. SB 301 was received by the House from the Senate March 9, and the measure status can be viewed here

What will the bill’s passing mean for Hawaii citizens who lawfully own firearms? It will mean that “except as provided in section 134-11, the manufacture, possession, sale, barter, trade, gift, transfer, or acquisition of detachable ammunition magazines with a capacity in excess of ten rounds that are designed for or capable of use with any firearm is prohibited.  This subsection shall not apply to magazines originally designed to accept more than ten rounds of ammunition which have been modified to accept no more than ten rounds and which are not capable of being readily restored to a capacity of more than ten rounds.” Source. Many popular rifles and semi-automatic guns are manufactured standard with 15 to 30 rounds, and this ban will put an undue burden on responsible firearms owners to spend money in order to modify their guns to comply with state laws. Source.

According to the Congressional Sportsmen, a Non-Profit organization that works with Congress, governors and state legislatures to protect and advance hunting, angling, recreational shooting and trapping, “in 1993, President Clinton signed the Federal Assault Weapons Ban, which made it illegal to either manufacture or sell ammunition magazines holding more than 10 rounds. The Federal Ban expired in 2004; and a 2003 Centers for Disease Control (CDC) study of the Federal Assault Weapons Ban was unable to show that this ban and its magazine capacity limitation had reduced crime.

Furthermore, a peer reviewed study by Koper and Roth in 2004 from the Jerry Lee Center of Criminology at the University of Pennsylvania, found “no evidence of reductions in multiple-victim gun homicides or multiple-gunshot wound victimizations” as a result of the federal ban on standard capacity magazines. Despite this, several states and jurisdictions have put similar magazine capacity bans into place in recent years. These bans place limits on the possession, sale, and/or transfer of standard capacity magazines, and vary from state to state.” Source.

One perhaps little known effect of this ban is that it can have a negative impact on the upkeep of state and federal parks. According to the Congressional Sportsmen, “firearms sales are very important, as they actively contribute to the American System of Conservation Funding through taxes. These taxes are used to fund state fish and wildlife management agencies, making the recreational shooting community a driving force for state-level conservation efforts nationwide.” Resources such as the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agenies explain how this model is impacted by taxes on firearms and fishing.

What can citizens do to remain engaged with state and national gun laws? Those interested in staying up-to-date may find it useful to visit the National Rifle Association website and sign up for newsletters. There are several other reputable organizations such as the Congressional Sportsman that offer free newsletters

Each week we look at current House and Senate Bills in the Hawaii State legislature. There are many useful and insightful resources available for citizens who are interested in learning about or engaging in Hawaii’s legislative process. Learn about current bills at capitol.hawaii.gov. Upon finding bills of interest, it is possible to read the full bill, follow the bill’s progression through the House and Senate, and submit testimony through this same website. An insightful resource for those looking to understand steps in the legislative process is A Citizen’s Guide to Participation in The Legislative Process, available on the capitol.hawaii.gov website.