Calif., Hawaii impose new gun regulations

But the laws venture into uncharted legal and political waters.

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This week, the governors of California and Hawaii signed several tough new gun regulations into law, drawing fierce criticism from gun rights advocates across the country.

On Friday, California Governor Jerry Brown approved six gun control bills, the most controversial of which is a comprehensive ban on magazines which contain more than ten rounds of ammunition. The new law applies to all weapons, handguns and long guns alike, and requires owners of existing firearms with high-capacity magazines to dispose of them unless their weapon was both “obtained prior to January 1, 2000” and cannot accommodate any magazine with fewer than 10 rounds. Violations of the law come with hefty fines.

The other five bills, as well as their impacts, are listed below:

  1. SB 1235: Requires firearms dealers to perform background checks on ammunition buyers.
  2. SB 880/AB 1135: Ban “bullet buttons,” a quick release button on many long guns which enables their users to rapidly change magazines.
  3. AB 1695: Bans those who knowingly file false reports on the loss or theft of a firearm from owning firearms for a decade.
  4. AB 1511: Limits personal loans of firearms to only immediate family and spouses/domestic partners. Prior to this bill’s passage, state law permitted firearms loans between persons “personally known to each other.”

Republican James Gallagher, one of the few state legislators opposing the measures, chided the Democratic majority for overlooking illegal gun crime in favor of regulating law-abiding gun owners. “[This legislation] will do nothing to stop criminals from getting guns,” Mr. Gallagher stated in a Friday press release. “We need to focus on enforcing the laws that we have on the books and keeping guns out of the hands of criminals.”

In Hawaii, Governor David Ige signed into law an unprecedented gun control regulation which would enroll law-abiding gun owners into the FBI’s “Rap Back” criminal activity monitoring system. The law ensures that firearm owners who commit a crime which voids their right to have firearms may have their weapons confiscated in a timely fashion, but the move has sparked a firestorm of criticism from gun rights advocates, who object to placing thousands of law-abiding gun owners into a national criminal database.

“It’s an invasion of privacy,” argued Harvey Gerwig, the president of the Hawaii Rifle Association, in an interview.

He also pointed out that it is unclear how Hawaii plans to pay for enrolling thousands of gun owners into the “Rap Back” system. “There’s a recurring fee for this,” Mr. Gerwig told me. “Who’s going to pay to have that data input? Who’s going to pay to monitor it? Who’s going to go out and access these people when they violate it?”

The law also may stand on shaky legal ground, as a provision of the Firearm Owners Protection Act of 1986 explicitly prohibits the establishment of “any system of registration of firearms [or] firearm owners,” which this law appears to do. Mr. Gerwig is considering a lawsuit, which he says would focus primarily upon this provision. “We have six lawyers working on it right now,” he said. “We may see the court looking at this, we’ll see.”

The National Rifle Association expressed serious concern about the registry law, which is the first of its kind in the nation. “As you can imagine, the NRA finds this one of the most extreme bills we’ve ever seen,” an NRA spokeswoman stated.

Governor Ige also approved HB 625 and HB 2632. The former bars stalkers and perpetrators of sexual assault from possessing firearms, while the latter requires firearm owners who have been disqualified from owning a firearm for reasons of mental disorder or hospitalization in a psychiatric facility to surrender their weapons to law enforcement immediately.

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