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Pictures of guns only, NRA group told

Liquor commission nixes showing of real firearms at fundraiser

Police detective Harry Matsuura Jr. expresses his concerns to county liquor commissioners Friday morning about the Friends of NRA fundraiser at the King Kamehameha Golf Club later this month. -- The Maui News / CHRIS SUGIDONO photo

WAILUKU — A gun auction fundraiser for the Maui Friends of NRA at the King Kamehameha Golf Club in Waikapu is moving forward after the Maui County Liquor Control Commission voted Friday to order organizers to replace the weapons with pictures of the firearms.

The Oct. 28 live and silent auction will have about 20 pistols, rifles and knives for sale. Funds raised will be used for college scholarships and to support Maui youth activities and education.

The Maui Police Department and liquor commissioners expressed concerns over the public auction and transporting of the weapons to a known location. Commissioners also worried about how many uniformed police officers would be present at the event and wondered why organizers did not show up to discuss their event at Friday’s meeting.

Anela Gutierrez, director of food and beverage at the golf club, appeared before the commission on behalf of the event organizers. She said no representatives from the Friends of NRA or Maui Ammo & Guns were present because they were not required to be at the meeting.

“I do not want to see these guns available and open,” commissioner Alberta de Jetley said. “I know most will be collectors purchasing them, but guns can be stolen. I just cannot see the rationale of having guns like this in our community anywhere. My grandson had a school shooting and the gunman was in the very next classroom.

Anela Gutierrez, director of food and beverage at King Kamehameha Golf Club in Waikapu, appears before the county Liquor Commission on Friday for a gun auction fundraiser to be held by the Maui Friends of NRA on Oct. 28. -- The Maui News / CHRIS SUGIDONO photo

“It’s only a matter of time before we have a shooting incident on Maui and the less guns we have the better.”

The group had originally planned to bring the firearms to the golf club an hour before the 5 p.m. event. All firearms would have been secured with wire-tie locks along with either a chamber lock or trigger lock.

All firearms would have been inoperable with bolts from longer guns and magazines from pistols removed, according to the group’s application.

Maui Ammo & Gun Supply owner Mark Redeker and two family members will provide the firearms and would have been the only ones holding the keys to the guns. The guns would have been returned to the gun store at the end of the night and been available for pickup after winners obtained a permit from the state, passed a background check by the federal government and registered their new firearm with the Police Department.

Guests would not have been able to handle the guns at any time, and no minors would be allowed at the event.

The NRA group has previously held an auction at the golf club with the firearms present.

Police detective Harry Matsuura Jr. said the precautions organizers planned were not sufficient and recommended at least four uniformed police officers be hired for the event. He said anyone could easily cut off the locks and buy a bolt or a magazine online and bring it to the auction.

Matsuura also noted that another Maui Friends of NRA auction held at the Grand Wailea used photographs instead of the real firearms.

“Although some people wanted to see the guns, you really didn’t need to see the guns if you’re a gun person,” he said. “Everyone that’s attending these types of dinners are usually firearm enthusiasts and have a lot of firearms. They know everything they need to know. They get all the magazines every month.

“They don’t need to actually have their hands on the firearm.”

Commissioner Roberto Andrion Jr. was the lone commissioner speaking in favor of keeping the guns and asked if there was a way to appease concerns by other members and police.

“I’m not downplaying safety,” Andrion said. “But if I want to have some kind of auction, I rather have something physically there that I can see. . . . Let’s try not to blow this thing out of proportion and see if there is something else we can look at to address safety if that is the concern.”

Commissioner Jonathan Todd disagreed with keeping the firearms at the auction and said that it “sounds horribly unsafe.” He asked Gutierrez if there was a problem with replacing the guns with photos or video.

“I’m probably the most right-wing person on Maui,” Todd said. “I want to grant this for you politically, but as a commissioner I have to ask you in the day and age of video why can’t you hold a gun up in a video and pass it around and take all this risk out of our community because a slip here is devastating.”

Gutierrez said she discussed various options with the nonprofit group, which preferred having the guns present but would agree to using photos.

She said organizers were willing to not serve alcohol if it became an issue. The liquor commission was reviewing the request because the golf club is a liquor licensee and because guns are considered prohibited items for auction.

Todd asked that police officers still be hired for the auction as a safety precaution even if guns are not present. He also said organizers should come to meetings with the commission to discuss their event, even if they are not required.

“He or she is not here; that is horrible,” Todd said. “So the restaurant licensor must tell their people who are in question, ‘Come with me to defend this. I can’t do this for you. I don’t have the answers.’ I think that question has to come out.”

An attempt to contact officials with Maui Friends of NRA on Friday was unsuccessful.

In other matters, the commission proposed rule changes waiving hearings, fees, background checks and other requirements for one-day special events held by nonprofits. The changes follow new state laws, which made it easier for nonprofits to host fundraisers.

The county liquor department has spent the past year working with nonprofits and County Council Member Yuki Lei Sugimura to streamline single-event licenses after nonprofit officials complained of extensive requirements that led to several canceled events. The commission agreed to remove many of the requirements following months of testimony.

The final draft of the new rules likely will be heard by the commission in December, liquor officials said.

“I think the changes are fantastic,” commission Vice Chairman Nane Aluli said after the meeting. “I think it really benefits the nonprofits in a positive way. I think they’ll all be very happy with the outcome of that.”

Among the new rule changes:

• Waiving hearings, fees, notarization of documents, submission of floor plans and other requirements for one-day temporary liquor licenses for fundraising events by nonprofit organizations.

• Nonprofits can auction off liquor in sealed or covered containers.

• No requirement of criminal history record checks, except for the executive director of a nonprofit organization.

• Eliminates the federal tax clearance requirement for liquor license applicants and renewal licenses.

For the full list of proposed rule changes, visit www.mauicounty.gov/DocumentCenter/View/114240/Proposed-Rule-Amendments-Chapter-281.

Maui Coalition for Drug-Free Youth also provided a presentation to commissioners regarding the board’s $20,000 funding for the Underage Drinking Prevention Program. The coalition works to reduce and prevent underage substance abuse.

* Chris Sugidono can be reached at csugidono@mauinews.com.

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