Photo: Honolulu Star-Bulletin. HPD officer Ron Taira shows various high caliber weapons at yesterday's news conference. At left is the .50 caliber Barrett semi-automatic.
It's a matter of public safety vs. the constitutional right to own weapons. The Honolulu Police Department held a news conference yesterday to drum up support for HB2999, a bill that would, among other things, ban the ownership and use of .50-caliber rifles in Hawaii. The bill has a single referral to the Judiciary committee. Judiciary heard the bill on Feb. 12th and decided to defer it. The Honolulu Star-Bulletin's story is here. The Advertiser's story is here. According to HPD, there are currently 125 such rifles in Hawaii, with about 90 on Oahu.
Law enforcement supports the bill citing the potential damage of a weapon using such a high caliber bullet. The Hawaii Rifle Association opposes the bill saying it is their constitutional right to bear arms. Major Gregory Lefcourt provided media with an example of the rifles capabilities:
"It was designed for the military," Lefcourt said. "People have said they can use this for hunting, but the damage it will do to an animal is so tremendous, it actually vaporizes the area that it strikes."
To draw a comparison, police officials displayed a .50-caliber Barrett sniper rifle and compared it with a Remington .308 rifle and an M4 assault rifle. Lefcourt said the Barrett would be able to accurately strike a target from the top of the Police Department's downtown headquarters, where yesterday's news conference was held, to the state Capitol, a distance of 0.4 miles. (Honolulu Star-Bulletin)
The news conference was held to gain public support and consideration from lawmakers. While the State Department of Defense, HPD and SHOPO supported the bill, the overwhelming majority of testifiers who are gun advocates strongly opposed the bill. Links to testimony can be found here.