Hawaii’s red flag law puts all gun owners at risk.
Imagine its 5am, the sun is just coming up.You awaken to the sound of your front gate opening. You start to get out of bed to check what’s going on and you hear what sounds like someone taking a sledge hammer to your front door. You reach for the handgun you keep in your bedside table and move to your bedroom door. You open the door a crack and as you do your front door bursts open.
You see the barrel of a gun come through the entryway. You instinctively raise your firearm and pull the trigger. Your wife is screaming behind you, your child’s bedroom door across the hall is opening and you see two more men coming through the doorway. The only thing you can hear is the ringing in your ears caused by the lack of hearing protection. You keep shooting as masked men force their way into your home. 3 shots, 5 shots, 10 shots, your gun runs dry. The men start shooting. The wall around you is peppered with shots. You feel a punch to the chest, looking down you see a growing red splotch. You fall to the ground just in time to see your child step into the hallway and start to run towards you. Your eyes close, never knowing if they made it to safety.
The men coming thru the door were police officers sent by the court to serve a Gun Violence Protective Order.
At a hearing on SB 1446, a state legislator asked HPD, what would the police department do if they were serving a Gun Violence Protective Order. The officers response was that HPD would use the The Specialized Services Division (SWAT) to execute the order. These officers use force to conduct warrants, searches and seizures. They don’t knock on doors and serve papers. They go in with one goal.
On July 2nd, 2019, Governor Ige signed into law, Act 150 (2019), referred to by the state as “GUN VIOLENCE PROTECTIVE ORDERS” (GPO), more commonly know as Red Flag laws. This gives the government the ability to seize peoples’ firearms on the mere accusation that the person may be a danger to themselves or to others.
The legislators passed the law stating the following reasoning; “Nationwide, active shooters have inflicted great harm by killing and injuring innocent persons, sometimes in tragic mass shootings such as the 2016 Orlando nightclub shooting and-the 2017 Las Vegas and Sutherland Springs church shootings. In such cases, law enforcement or a member of the shooters family or household may have observed warning signs before the shooting, but depending on the jurisdiction, they may not have had the ability to petition a court to confiscate the shooters firearms and ammunition.”
The law as passed allows “law enforcement officer, family or household member, medical professional, educator, or colleague to obtain a court order to prevent a person from accessing firearms and ammunition if the person poses a danger of causing bodily injury to the person or another.”
All court proceedings for the petition for a GPO are done Ex Parte (with respect to or in the interests of one side only or of an interested outside party.) What does this mean? This means that the person who is being accused of being a danger has no idea that it’s happening. They don’t get to provide evidence or statements in their defense. The first time they here about the order is when the police show up to serve them and seize their firearms.
Once served and your firearms are seized, you may request a hearing with the issuing judge, to prove your innocence. Bear in mind, you have no idea who or what you have done to have your firearms taken away in the first place. If the Judge finds that you are a threat, then they will issue an order to remove your gun rights for a period of 1 year. The only way to stop this happening is to go to court, potentially spending tens of thousands of dollars on legal fees, to prove you’re not a threat to yourself, others or society in general. Also, remember that in the interim, the person who filed the GPO against you could now use that as method to get a TRO. This can become permanent. All they would have to do is state that they fear retaliation for their actions, potentially removing your rights to bear arms forever.
So, what happens if the GPO is denied? You then have to go to the police department and fill out a permit to acquire application for each firearm, wait 2 weeks before getting them back and if you own any firearms that are exempt from the registration process (Pre 1994) they will no longer be exempt.
What happens if someone lies to get a GPO? “A person who files a petition for an ex parte gun violence protective order or a one-year gun violence protective order under this part, knowing the information in the petition to be materially false or with an intent to harass the respondent, is guilty of a misdemeanor.” So, what does that mean? Nothing. They will walk away with little to no punishment because that’s how the law works in Hawaii.
Hawaii’s red flag law goes into effect January 1st, 2020. From this date, all gun owners in Hawaii will have to decide if that bump in the night is bad guys intent on harming their family, or the police coming to serve a GPO. As we have seen in recent years, a person coming into your home, yelling “Police!” does not mean they are a police officer. Time and time again, criminals are using this as a way to gain compliance.
To any police officer reading this that may be asked to execute a GPO, as a gun owner all I ask is the courtesy of knocking on my door.
Andrew Namiki Roberts
Director Hawaii Firearms Coalition