LAWMAKERS PROPOSE MEASURES TO STRENGTHEN GUN VIOLENCE PREVENTION, MENTAL HEALTH SYSTEM
Bills would fill 'gaps' in existing law to protect police, community
News Release from House Democratic Caucus, February 4, 2020
Honolulu, Hawaiʻi – The recent tragic incident involving the deaths of two Honolulu Police Officers last month has highlighted the need to improve mental health care and ensure we prevent guns from getting into the hands of those suffering from mental illness.
During a press conference today, House and Senate legislators, law enforcement officers and state officials discussed the collaborative effort taking place this session to consider several bills related to gun violence prevention and mental health.
"House and Senate committees this week will be taking up 18 measures in preventing gun violence. Some of these measures were drafted with the help of the Honolulu Police Department prior to the tragic events of January 19," said Representative Gregg Takayama, Chair of the House Public Safety, Veterans & Military Affairs Committee. "That tragedy has heightened the urgency with which we are considering measures dealing with gun violence and mental health. Yes, we have some of the strongest gun laws in the country, but we are constantly on the lookout for loop holes to improve the safety of our officers and the public."
"What happens when someone passes away and leaves a gun behind, who is responsible for making sure those are accounted for and prevent them from falling into the wrong hands?" said Representative Chris Lee, Chair of the House Judiciary Committee. "Guns are frequently being assembled from component parts without the kind of checks to make sure they don't fall into the wrong hands. It is time we take a look at that issues."
"We have a number of bills we are looking at to ensure the safety of the police and to ensure public safety," said Senator Clarence K. Nishihara, Chair of the Senate Public Safety, Intergovernmental, and Military Affairs Committee. "I am happy to work with my counterparts in the House and with the HPD to make sure that the right types of protections are there for the police and the public."
"There are some at loop holes we are still trying to look at. We have no restrictions on .50-caliber machine guns. We have not regulated ammunition basically at all," said Senator Karl Rhoads, Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee. "We have no restrictions against having a firearm while a person is drunk. We are looking into all those things."
"We are not against responsible gun ownership, but we need to keep them off the streets and out of the hands of people who are killings our citizens, killing our police officers," said Honolulu Police Chief Susan Ballard. "Mental illness is a huge issue for the police department. The mentally ill cannot make the decisions they need to make. We need to make sure we have treatment for those type of people whether they are housed, or homeless. Please don't forget our two officers who died and move these things forward to get the people in our communities the help that they need."
"The convening of the Legislature provides a real opportunity for the State to examine issues that are important to our State and to come up with very collaborative and comprehensive approaches," said Hawaiʻi Attorney General Clare E. Connors. "We all have a shared interest here in achieving something better, in preserving something good, and that is what is represented by all of us here today."
GUN VIOLENCE PREVENTION BILLS
§ HB 2709 Relating to the Uniform Probate Code
Requires a personal representative of a decedent appointed under the Uniform Probate Code to notify the police department of the appropriate county of any and all firearms in an estate. Requires the police department to certify that all firearms in an estate are properly transferred or disposed of before the estate may close.
§ SB 2002 Relating to Firearms
Prohibits any person from possessing a firearm while intoxicated, unless the person is in their own dwelling. Violation is a petty misdemeanor.
§ HB 2710 Relating to Protective Orders
Permits a law enforcement officer to search a person convicted of violating certain TROs or protective orders, including the person's motor vehicle and the person's residence for firearms without obtaining a search warrant if the law enforcement officer has reason to believe acts of abuse, malicious property damage, or harassment by the person are imminent.
§ HB 1733/SB 2151 (HPD Package) Relating to Firearms ("Ghost Guns")
Makes it a Class C Felony to purchase, manufacture, or otherwise obtain firearm parts for the purpose of assembling a firearm having no serial number. Amends certain requirements relating to firearms registration.
§ SB 2519/HB 1736 (HPD Package) Relating to Firearms (Large Capacity Guns)
Prohibits the manufacture, possession, sale, barter, trade, gift, transfer, or acquisition of detachable ammunition magazines with a capacity in excess of ten rounds, regardless of the type of firearm with which the magazine is compatible. Makes an exception for possession and use by law enforcement agencies and officers.
§ HB 2744 Relating to Gun Violence Prevention
Establish the Hawaii Gun Violence Prevention Center to assist law enforcement, analyze data, and conduct research necessary to help reduce gun violence. Creates a special fund to support the Center. Appropriates funds.
Recognizing gaps in Hawaiʻi's mental health treatment System, the Legislature and key stakeholders are looking to improve access to community treatment options through criminal justice reforms to the assisted community treatment process, building out more community and State capacity options for mental health treatment, and addressing workforce shortages among mental health, behavioral health workers.
"It is really quite tragic that our State Hospital has no space for commitment there," said Representative Joy A. San Buenaventura, Chair House Human Services & Homelessness Committee. "There are a set of bills to do a number of things to help with this situation. Those who see the mentally ill homeless on the streets know we have a mental illness problem here. These people are being taken off the street but within a few days are back on the street and they are not being treated. We have a severe shortage of mental health professionals. We need to incentivize people to get into the mental health profession."
"The key in all of this is collaboration," said Senator Rosalyn H. Baker, Chair Senate Commerce, Consumer Protection, and Health Committee. "We do not have enough places for people to go and get the help that they need. We can repurpose spaces to make sure people have an opportunity to have their illness treated in a stabilized way."
"There are significant gaps in our health care system that we need to address in order to prevent a tragedy like we saw last weekend," Edward Mersereau, State Department of Health, Deputy Director of Behavioral Health Services. "We can only do that with collaboration."
STRENGTHENING HAWAII'S MENTAL HEALTH SYSTEM BILLS
§ HB 1619 Relating to Penal Responsibility
Authorizes the courts to enter into collaborative agreements to divert into residential, rehabilitative, and other treatment those defendants whose physical or mental disease, disorder or defect is believed to have become or will become an issue in a judicial case.
§ HB 1620/SB 2033 Relating to Administration of Justice (ACT Reforms)
Amends the effect of finding a defendant charged with a misdemeanor or petty misdemeanor not involving violence or attempted violence unfit to proceed. Amends the requirements for fitness determination hearings, court-appointed examiners, and examination reports.
· Highlighted community capacity & bed capacity bills include:
§ SB 2505 Relating to Health
Requires & appropriates funds for DOH to establish a continuum of stabilization beds statewide for non-forensic patients with substance abuse or mental health disorders, or both, by repurposing unused state facilities.
§ HB 2522 Relating to Health
Requires DOH to establish short-term residential beds for the purpose of stabilization from mental health conditions or substance use and to assess patients and triage them to a clinically appropriate level of care through the Hawaii coordinate access resource entry system (CARES). Appropriates funds.
· Highlighted workforce shortage bills include:
§ HB 2707 Relating to Mental Health
Establishes the behavioral health social worker scholarship program at UH, which requires recipients of the scholarship to commit to five years of service with DHS. Appropriates funds.
§ HB 2524 Relating to the Department of Public Safety
Requires PSD to establish a mental health first aid training program that provides mandatory eight-hour sessions triennially for law enforcement, correctional officers, and other public safety officials under PSD.
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