Hawaii earning national reputation as leader in gun violence prevention


I love living in a place that residents of every other state dream of visiting. Hawaii is widely known for our beautiful beaches, perfect weather and low-key lifestyle — and now, we’re earning a reputation as a national leader in gun violence prevention too.

Every day, 93 Americans are shot and killed, including seven children. This country’s gun homicide rate is more than 25 times the average of other high-income countries. And for every person killed with a gun, two more are injured. It’s hard to watch the news and not feel hopeless.

But I’m a dad of two. And I knew that for me, feeling hopeless wasn’t an option. I had to do my part to keep my kids safe and help to stop gun violence — and that’s why I joined Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America.

We support common-sense, evidence-based policies and practices that help reduce gun violence in America — and Hawaii is leading the way.

For example, Hawaii requires background checks for all gun sales. We know that background checks save lives: In the states that require background checks for all handgun sales, 47 percent fewer women are shot to death by intimate partners, 53 percent fewer law enforcement officers are shot and killed in the line of duty, and there is 48 percent less gun trafficking in cities in those states.

Hawaii also goes beyond federal law and has strong laws to keep guns out of the hands of domestic abusers — including nonmarried dating partners and stalkers. These laws ensure that in Hawaii, domestic abusers are not allowed to buy guns and must relinquish guns they own when they become prohibited from having them.

And this month, Gov. David Ige signed legislation requiring that law enforcement officials be alerted when prohibited possessors break the law and try to obtain a gun. Before House Bill 459 was signed into law, when a person who’s not allowed to have guns, such as a convicted felon or domestic abuser, attempted to obtain a permit to buy a gun but was stopped by a background check, that information may have gone nowhere — allowing that person the time to get a gun somewhere else.

But when a person fails a background check, that’s a red flag — we know someone too dangerous to have a gun is actively trying to get one. Now, thanks to the Legislature and Gov. Ige, law enforcement and prosecuting attorneys will be notified when a prohibited purchaser tries to buy a gun — giving them an opportunity to respond to threats before they turn deadly.

Strong laws like these are one reason why it’s no surprise that Hawaii has, by far, the lowest gun homicide rate of any state in the country. Over the last five years of available data, Hawaii’s gun homicide rate was more than nine times lower than the national average.

Hawaii should be seen as a model by every other state — we’re proving that support for the Second Amendment can — and should — go hand-in-hand with common-sense gun laws and a culture of gun safety.

I’m so proud of the progress we’ve made and the example we’ve become. I hope other states follow our lead.

* Bennett Cale is the volunteer leader of the Hawaii chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America. He lives in Kula.