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Bill setting rules for electric gun sellers in county passes

County facing litigation over delay in enacting law after electric gun sales legalized Jan. 1

The Maui County Council voted unanimously Friday to approve an ordinance setting licensing requirements for electric gun sellers after removing insurance requirements and having the finance director issue the permits instead of the police chief.

The changes, which Council Member Tasha Kama described as “technical amendments,” were presented to council members Friday afternoon shortly before they voted on the bill.

Deputy Corporation Counsel Keola Whittaker said the changes were proposed to the bill “to make sure it strikes the right balance between regulation and people’s rights.”

A state law that took effect Jan. 1 legalized sales of electric guns such as Tasers and stun guns. The law gave counties the responsibility of issuing permits to sellers of electric guns, prompting the bill.

At an earlier hearing on the measure, officials said they understood electric guns hadn’t been sold in the state because counties hadn’t passed ordinances regulating the sales.

But Whittaker said Friday that “other counties have started selling electric guns without a county ordinance adding on additional requirements.”

Under a draft ordinance discussed at a Human Concerns and Parks Committee meeting in March, licensed sellers would have been required to have insurance policies with coverages of $2 million per event and $3 million annually, as well as cover the county, its officers and employees and “defend the county from any claims arising from the license to sell and the use of electric guns or cartridges.”

The draft called for the police chief to approve an electric gun safety or training course for sellers.

After the committee discussion, a federal lawsuit filed against the county and council alleged that the delay in enacting an ordinance and the additional requirements for sellers “have perpetuated a complete ban on the sale, ownership and possession of electric arms.”

The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court in Honolulu by Maui Ammo and Gun Supply, the business name for Mags Management Inc., a Nevada corporation registered in Hawaii with a location in Wailuku; the Hawaii Firearms Coalition of people who support the constitutionally protected right to keep and bear arms; and Wailuku resident Christy Gusman, who wants to buy a Taser.

At the council meeting Friday, Whittaker said the insurance requirement for sellers was removed based on recommendations by a county risk analyst as well as outside insurance brokers.

He said the type of insurance proposed may be difficult to obtain and said a “relatively low volume” of electric guns are expected to be sold in the county.

Whittaker also said Police Chief John Pelletier “suggested that the police chief not be involved in the permitting process since the Department of Finance is the issuing authority.”

The department has drafted permit applications and, with assistance from the Department of Corporation Counsel, has approved two electric gun safety courses for sellers, Whittaker said.

Asked about the lawsuit, Whittaker said “we have had productive conversations with their attorneys.”

“We believe that this amended bill strikes a good balance between regulation and those that would like to own electric guns in Maui County,” he said.

He said the county hoped the lawsuit would become moot with the new ordinance “because people will be able to sell electric guns in the county once this is signed into law.”

Whittaker also said “there’s not necessarily an issue” to have a Police Commission member selling electric guns. Police Commissioner Mark Redeker owns Maui Ammo and Gun Supply, which wants to sell electric guns and is one of the plaintiffs in the federal lawsuit.

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