State gun laws strict, but folks are still worried

Hawai’i’s gun control laws are the among the most strict in the nation, but

some people on Kaua’i are saying more needs to be done, especially in the

schools.

At a presentation about gun control, community members spoke out

about firearms violence becoming a bigger and bigger problem in recent

years.

“Just generally, I think that we hear more about it, and the

youngsters are beginning to get a hold of guns,” said Jenny Yukimura of

Lihu’e.

Another resident said that given the fact that Kaua’i was an island

where most people coming in need to pass through security checks at airports,

it would be easy to create restrictions on guns.

“This island might be a

good place to set a gun control model for the U.S., at least with handguns,” he

said.

Hawai’i’s laws do allow counties to enact their own ordinances to

prevent gun violence.

Audience members said that at the very least gun

awareness and education needs to be implemented in the island’s schools,

especially after hearing about a Kapa’a Middle School student bringing a gun to

school in her backpack.

In Hawai’i, it is a crime to store or leave a

firearm within the reach of a minor.

“I think as an island it’s easier

today to have access to handguns,” said another audience member.

The

meeting was held by Mieko and Masaichi Hattori, a Japanese couple whose son was

slain in Louisiana by a gun-wielding homeowner when the boy stepped onto his

property.

“Even though it happened over there, this hits very close to

home,” one resident said.

Here are some facts and figures about guns in

Hawai’i:

There are upwards of 400,000 registered firearms in the state, and

200,000 of those are in Honolulu.

Just how many firearms there are

registered on Kaua’i itself is difficult to ascertain, police say, due to

inconsistent record keeping in the past.

From January to June of this year,

551 weapons were registered with the Kaua’i Police Department.

From 1980 to

1999, 8,000 applications for firearms were made to the KPD. But those figures

are eschewed since people may register one to six weapons per

form.

Gun-related murders, like what happened recently on the North Shore,

where a man allegedly stole a number of guns, and, police say, used one of

them on his girlfriend’s father, are still rarities on island, police

say.

“Through whatever good fortune, our level of violent crime on island

is so low, it’s not really an issue,” Kaua’i Police Chief George Freitas said.

But he quickly added that firearms as a home safety issue is a big

concern.

What really troubles him is citizens arming themselves as a way of

protecting their home.

After two brutal assaults against women occurred on

the West Side, some citizens said they were planning to go out and buy

guns.

That’s a safety measure that could easily backfire, Freitas

said.

For one, he’s heard of cases where an intruder actually ends up

shooting the homeowner with his or her own gun.

Also, citizens who show up

armed to help police can get themselves in big trouble.

“In a stressful

situation like a robbery, we want to make sure that the only people holding

weapons are the police,” he said. When the reaction time is critical, it’s

sometimes hard for police to discern a bad guy from some assisting citizen, he

added.

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