Hawaii could become the first US state to log all gun owners in an Federal Bureau of Investigation database, a plan that has garnered both praise and criticism since it was proposed.
The FBI database, known as the “Rap Back” service, is common throughout the United States. Most individuals entered into the database, however, are individuals who require a background check for their work or are considered to be in a “position of trust.” Many registered individuals are school teachers or bus drivers.
Hawaii Sen. Will Espero (D) introduced the bill with the support of Hawaiian law enforcement officials and gun safety advocates.
Proponents say the move would make Hawaii a leader in gun control and safety.
According to Honolulu Police Department Maj. Richard Robinson, Hawaiian law enforcement currently struggles with gun registration and safety, as gun owners only undergo background checks when registering a gun, not buying them.
At the present, officials have no way of knowing if an individual is prohibited from owning a gun until after the gun is purchased.
"We were only discovering things by accident," Major Robinson told the Associated Press. "They happen to come register another firearm, we run another background check, and then we find out they're a prohibited person."
According to Robinson, Hawaiian police discover that a potential registrant is prohibited from buying a gun about 20 times a year.
The “Rap Back” database could also alert police if Hawaiian gun owners or potential gun owners have been arrested anywhere else in the country.
Critics of the legislation, however, have shared concerns about privacy and constitutional rights.
"I don't like the idea of us being entered into a database. It basically tells us that they know where the guns are, they can go grab them" firearm and hunting instructor Jerry Ilo told the Associated Press. "We get the feeling that Big Brother is watching us."
Some critics say the legislation would curtail the free exercise of constitutional liberties, citing the Second Amendment .
"This is an extremely dangerous bill. Exercising a constitutional right is not inherently suspicious," Amy Hunter of the National Rifle Association told the Associated Press. "Hawaii will now be treating firearms as suspect and subject to constant monitoring."
Despite these criticisms, legal experts say that the bill would likely hold up in court due to recent US Supreme Court rulings that establish states’ abilities to regulate gun sales.
Any costs related to name entry in the “Rap Back” database would be covered by fees paid by gun owners. The bill must undergo review by the Attorney General’s Office, which has already come out in support of the intitiative, before heading to the governor's desk for approval.
A recent study of gun ownership and suicide rates, by the Boston University School of Public Health, found that the average percentage of gun ownership for all states was 41 percent. Hawaii had the lowest gun ownership rate at 12.2 percent, while Wyoming had the highest at 72.8 percent, reported Medical Daily.
This report contains material from the Associated Press.