Council committee prioritizes public safety
By Tamara Paltin
A bill to improve public safety by updating the regulation of air guns and replica guns is up for second and final reading by the Maui County Council on Tuesday at 9 a.m.
Bill 169, CD 1 (2022) was proposed by the police department and recommended for approval on June 21 by the Disaster, Resilience, International Affairs and Planning Committee, which I chair. As stated in Committee Report 23-58, the department “has observed an increase in the use of air and replica guns to commit felony crimes.”
The report also notes that “police officers, especially those responding to a high-risk call, cannot easily differentiate between a real firearm and an air or replica gun.”
This bill seeks to prohibit the display and discharge of air guns in public places or under other circumstances that may endanger people or property. No person would be allowed to possess a replica gun in their vehicle or use replica guns to harass, threaten or frighten anyone.
Exemptions are provided for shooting ranges, confined private property, hunting and paintball games.
Violation of the ordinance would be a misdemeanor. Upon conviction, penalties could include fines of up to $500 and jail time of up to one year.
The committee received a presentation from the police department that demonstrated the striking resemblance between air and replica guns and actual firearms. Even to the trained eye, replica and air guns can be nearly indistinguishable from firearms.
According to police officials, not only can these air and replica guns cause serious or even fatal injuries, but they are also increasingly used in burglaries and drug trafficking.
I’m also proposing that the legislature make it a felony for felons to possesses or purchases an air or replica gun.
Resolutions 23-181 and 23-184 would include the proposed state legislation in the 2024 Maui County Council and Hawai‘i State Association of Counties legislative packages, respectively. They are also on Tuesday’s council agenda.
For more information and to provide testimony to the council on Tuesday, visit mauicounty.us/agendas or email firstname.lastname@example.org. You can join the meeting in person at the Council Chamber in Wailuku, on video conference or by phone.
To address another type of public-safety crisis, my committee is continuing to consult with experts and community leaders on coastal erosion, sea-level rise and other effects of climate change. At 9 a.m. on Aug. 2, we will convene a panel discussion to help the council with long-term planning to help the community be resilient and mitigate these effects.
Invited panelists include ocean scientists Mark Deakos, Michael Foley, Tara Owens and Curt Storlazzi. Deputy Director of Land and Natural Resources Laura Ka‘akua, Justine Nihipali of the state Office of Planning and Kai Nishiki of Maui Resiliency Hui have also been requested to brief the committee.
As much as councilmembers will benefit from the expertise of these resource persons, we also need to hear ideas and concerns from the general public. Everyone in our island home, from all walks of life, is impacted by sea-level rise and other climate-change effects.
The meeting agenda will be posted by July 27 and will include testimony instructions. Mahalo, in advance, for sharing your insights.
*Tamara Paltin is the chair of the Disaster, Resilience, International Affairs and Planning Committee. She holds the County Council seat for the West Maui residency area. “Council’s 3 Minutes” is a column to explain the latest news on county legislative and community matters. Go to mauicounty.us for more information.