Hawaii Bill Would Database Gun Owners For Special Scrutiny

posted on May 30, 2016
Jay Spooner/Getty Images

Hawaii lawmakers want to put law-abiding gun owners like you into a federal government database that would subject you to special scrutiny simply for exercising your constitutional right to own a gun.

Hawaii Senate Bill 2954, which was passed by the state legislature and now awaits the signature of Gov. David Ige, would put the names of law-abiding Hawaii gun owners into the FBI's so-called "rap back" registry. This bill turns the idea of “innocent until proven guilty” upside down.

Up until now, the persons listed in this "rap back" database were those in "positions of trust"—schoolteachers, bus drivers and the like.

The rationale behind "rap back" was that, for example, if a schoolteacher were arrested for stalking or a bus driver were arrested for drunken driving—even if the arrest were made in another state—the FBI could alert local police and school officials.

Now, however, Hawaii wants to put law-abiding gun owners under that same special surveillance and scrutiny. Their rationale? Apparently they believe that merely exercising your Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms puts you in a "position of trust" for which you should be watched, monitored and flagged at the earliest possible opportunity.

Whether or not you live in Hawaii, this scheme should give you the willies. Why? First of all, because it amounts to a registry of gun owners.

And that registry is ripe for abuse by everyone from gun-grabbing politicians and anti-gun groups, to criminal hackers and thieves who see firearms as the next-best thing to steal after cash, jewelry or narcotics.

But like so many other gun-control schemes that have been proposed recently, this bill in Hawaii would treat gun owners as second-class citizens when it comes to due process of the law.

The fact that "rap back" will flag people who have only been arrested, but not necessarily convicted—in other words, only accused but not proven to have committed any crime—is acceptable to some people who say that the mere possibility of harm to children is worth the cost to constitutional rights.

And although this may be the first time a state has sought to add the names of gun owners to the FBI's "rap back" database, you can bet it won't be the last.Part of a larger trend to deny Second Amendment rights, even absent proof of any wrongdoing.

In fact, it's part of a larger trend. Across the country, legislators in more and more states are trying to rewrite laws to cast a wider and wider net to deny the right to keep and bear arms to ever more people—whether or not they've ever committed any crime, whether or not they're violent or dangerous, and in some cases, whether or not they’ve even been accused of any wrongdoing.

For examples, just look at how President Barack Obama wants to deny the Second Amendment rights of anyone named on the so-called “terror watch list”—regardless of whether they have ever been convicted, or even accused, of any crime.

Look at Obama’s scheme to deny the right to keep and bear arms to Social Security and Veterans Administration beneficiaries simply because they have a “representative payee” or “fiduciary” assigned to help them with their financial affairs.

Look at California, where lawmakers are pushing to expand so-called “gun violence restraining orders” to deny the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding people not just on the diagnosis of a mental health professional, but also on the word of untrained, unqualified people who simply tell a judge, “John Smith can’t be trusted to own a gun.”

All these schemes should be chilling to anyone who values the idea of "innocent until proven guilty."

Because they don’t just turn the idea of firearm ownership—a right specifically guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution and, for that matter, a duty of citizenship throughout much of the history of Western civilization—into suspect behavior. On a philosophical level, they also transform firearm ownership into something to be distrusted, something to warrant extra scrutiny, something that demands a higher level of proof or "good reason" or "acceptable risk" for government to grant its license.

That's a dangerous idea. It turns the notion of inherent, unalienable rights upside-down. And it cuts to the heart of why the right to arms—not just in American history, and not just throughout the Western Common Law tradition, but going back to Aristotle—is inextricably tied to, inseparable from, and as necessary for the survival of human freedom as air is necessary to breathe.

Use Your Power!

Hawaii residents, contact Gov. Ige and urge him NOT to sign SB2954 into law. Tell him law-abiding gun owners should NOT be databased in a state or federal registry, should NOT be treated as suspect simply for exercising their Second Amendment rights, and should NOT be subject to the federal government’s “rap back” monitoring program. You can call the governor at (808) 586-0034 or email him by clicking here.


Joseph P. DeBergalis Jr.
Joseph P. DeBergalis Jr.

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