Panel to mull gun carry bill today

Gun Rights

A bill that would restrict the carrying of concealed and unconcealed firearms in “sensitive places” in Hawaii County has garnered quite a bit of opposition ahead of its first committee hearing.

Bill 220, if passed, would define sensitive locations on the Big Island where carry of a firearm is prohibited, consistent with an individual’s 2nd Amendment right to bear arms in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s June ruling in the New York State Rifle &Pistol Association vs. Bruen.

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Bill 220 will be heard today by members of the Committee on Parks and Recreation and Public Safety. West Hawaii Today first reported the bill Wednesday, prior to the proposal being scheduled for hearing.

As introduced, Bill 220 would prohibit concealed and unconcealed firearms in a host of places, among them hospitals, schools, daycare centers and parks, churches, voter service centers, airports and public transit vehicles, establishments that serve alcohol, government buildings and private property that is open to the public, unless posted.

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In addition, a person would be prohibited from carrying a concealed or unconcealed weapon while under the influence of alcohol or any “intoxicating or hallucinatory drug or substance.”

Dozens of people submitted comment ahead of today’s 9 a.m. hearing in Council Chambers in Hilo. The meeting will be livestreamed as well. For more details, as well as a link to view the meeting, visit hawaiicounty.gov.

The majority of testimony submitted as of Monday afternoon was in opposition, with 51 individuals and organizations chiming in against the proposal by Hilo Councilman Aaron Chung at the request for former Police Chief Paul Ferreira. Three people offered testimony is support of the measure and another three provided only comment.

“On the surface it appears this bill is designed to do an end run around the Supreme Courts ruling on permitting law abiding citizens the ability to carry concealed firearms for their safety,” wrote Barry Aoki. “The areas listed in the bill as a sensitive area are areas where there are little protections from individuals intent on doing harm to the community. Those wanting to do harm to the community are not going to be the ones who follow laws.”

Daniel Benz, offering testimony against Bill 220, said mass shootings have historically occurred at the very locations the bill would ban people from carrying concealed firearms.

“Not allowing our law abiding citizens to defend themselves in these situations is irresponsible legislating,” Benz wrote, before listing off deadly shootings at New Life Church in Colorado, Greenwood Park Mall in Indiana and Vaughn Foods in Oklahoma. “These are just a few incidents where citizens were able to defend themselves and the lives of others in the locations that this bill bands. This bill is a knee jerk reaction to the fear of our legislators to the new environment that the Supreme Court ruling has thrust us into. We should not inhibit locations where law abiding ccw holders are able to carry. Instead, citizens that have taken on the weight and responsibility of legally carrying a firearm should be held to a higher standards. The county should promote minimum training requirements, education and prohibit the use of substances while carrying a firearm.”

Blaine Stuart, a former Hilo resident also offering testimony in opposition to Bill 220, urged council members to reject the bill at this time.

“It is likely that the state Legislature is going to tackle this issue in the upcoming legislative session starting in January of 2023. There is no need for the Hawaii County Council to take action at this time,” he wrote.

Janice Palma-Glennie was among the few testifying in support of Chung’s proposed bill.

“I believe that our state has been blindsided by an extremist Supreme Court who, with their lack of wisdom and connection to weapons manufacturers, the NRA and other supporters, will make our state less safe by allowing the increase of proliferation of guns in our society. I support any and all regulations on gun ownership that can slow down the carnage that awaits us,” the Kailua-Kona resident offered.

Retired Hawaii Police Department Sgt. Christopher Gali also wrote in favor of the bill, but noted it needs to have an exemption for active and retired law enforcement officers.

“In a theoretical situation, what if a shooter had entered a county council meeting and started shooting and I was in the gallery. Would you want me to take action? Of course you would. As a retired police officer I would also want to do whatever I could to stop what was going on,” he wrote. “Just think how long it would take for police to respond? 2, 3, 4 or 5 minutes? By that time the shooting would be over. Just remember that the criminal element is not going to follow the law and will bring guns into places in which they are banned.”

Email Chelsea Jensen at cjensen@westhawaiitoday.com.

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