UPDATE: Firearm Background Check Bill Approved, Sent to Governor
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by Dave Smith
***Updated at 3:45 p.m. on Tuesday, April 30.***
The state Legislature on Tuesday approved a bill expanding background checks to individuals seeking to bring firearms into Hawaii.
In the House, three members voted against the measure, including Republican Reps. Bob McDermott and Richard Lee Fale, and Rep. Rida Cabanilla, a Democrat. Rep. Beth Fukumoto, a Republican, voted yes with reservations.
In the Senate, the lone GOP member, Sen. Sam Slom, voted against the bill.
All five legislators are from Oahu.
Posted at 2:19 p.m. Monday, April 29:
It looks like Hawaii lawmakers this week will act where Congress fell short.
Currently, sales from licensed gun dealers trigger background checks nationally, but they are not required in many states for private transactions, including gun shows and internet sales.
Hawaii takes a more blanket approach, requiring permits and associated background checks for ownership regardless of where the gun is to be acquired.
Unless the gun is brought in from out-of-state.
The state Legislature has scheduled a vote Tuesday on a bill that would change that.
Senate Bill 69 was moved out of a joint House-Senate conference committee on Friday with only minor changes.
Existing state law requires that before someone can acquire a firearm in Hawaii they must first obtain a permit from the local police department.
To obtain the permit, the individual must be fingerprinted and photographed and undergo a national background check, and also must agree to allow access to “any records that have a bearing on the mental health of the applicant.”
However, bringing a firearm into Hawaii is covered under a separate section of the law which also mandates prior registration but does not require the background check.
Law enforcement agencies say Senate Bill 69 will close that loophole.
Universal background checks have been hot topics both nationally and in several states.
Hawaii’s vote comes less than two weeks after a bipartisan attempt to tighten background checks for firearm purchases at gun shows and on the internet failed in Congress.
National Public Radio today reported that Sen. Joe Manchin, the West Virginia Democrat who co-sponsored the bill, will re-introduce the legislation.
Speaking on Fox News Sunday, Manchin said he believed the failure of the bill was related to “some confusion” about whether the bill would have been a step toward national registry of gun owners, NPR said.
Manchin said anyone reading the bill would see that is not the case.
Congress voted 54-46 in favor of the legislation but that tally fell short of the 60 votes needed to head off a filibuster.
The banning of large-capacity magazines is another issue often raised by supporters of tougher gun legislation on the national level. However, clips holding more than 10 rounds of ammunition are already banned in Hawaii.
Expanded background checks were approved during this year’s legislative sessions in Connecticut and Colorado, both of which were sites of recent gun massacres.
Connecticut is the home of Sandy Hook Elementary School where six teachers and 20 children were killed in December.
Following the Columbine High School shootings in 1999, ballot measures were passed in Colorado and Oregon to require background checks for gun show sales. After another massacre in Colorado last year in which a dozen theater-goers were killed, Colorado’s legislature this year extended the checks to private transactions.
A bill to do the same in Oregon has apparently been shelved.
Universal background checks also came up this year in Washington state where the bill narrowly failed. However, backers of the legislation are planning on taking the issue to voters via initiative in 2014, the Seattle Times reported today.
Supporters of the legislation point to national polls that show 90% of respondents are in favor of expanded background checks for gun sales.