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Hawaiʻi County Council passes 'sensitive places' weapons law

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A bill to prohibit the carrying of permitted weapons in certain places passed through the Hawaiʻi County Council last week.

The bill defines “sensitive places” as an area where weapons and firearms would not be allowed. This would include places where children gather — like schools and parks, but more broadly places like medical facilities, public transit, churches, voting centers and government vehicles.

The measure would also prohibit permitted weapons in places that serve alcohol and certain private properties.

The initial Bill 220 was introduced by Council member Aaron Chung, at the request of then-retiring Police Chief Paul Ferreria.

Council member Heather Kimball introduced several amendments to the measure. She sought to clarify where guns would be allowed and how property owners would signify gun-free environments. During a meeting on Nov. 16, she said these county-level laws are a first step before state laws come in.

"One of the things that we've said here is that this is a stopgap measure until such time as the state Legislature introduces their own," Kimball said.

"My understanding is that there are discussions going on and it is likely, if not probable, that they will. However, I think we should also take into account the possibility, unlikely as it may be, that the state will leave it to the counties to do this."

After hours-long discussions, the measure passed with five in favor, one against, and two absent.

The bill is now in front of Mayor Mitch Roth for approval.

The Honolulu City Council is set to hold a public hearing on a similar bill to establish “sensitive places” on Oʻahu.

Sabrina Bodon is a general assignment reporter at Hawaiʻi Public Radio. Contact her at sbodon@hawaiipublicradio.org or 808-792-8252.
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