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According to the Violence Policy Center (VPC), The Aloha state has fewer deaths by gunfire per 100,000 residents than any other state. The VPC attributes this to a no-nonsense attitude by state officials concerning the purchase, registration, licensing, transportation and use of all types of firearms.
VPC statistics show that in Hawaii, household gun ownership is estimated at 9.7 percent, lower than any other state. The reduced number of guns translates directly into a gunfire death rate of only 2.2 per 100,000 residents. Stated differently, fewer guns on the street mean fewer people being killed by gunfire every year.
This conclusion is contrary to the position of the National Rifle Association (NRA) which has for years contended that more, not fewer, guns should be in circulation to "ensure the safety of law-abiding citizens."
The most dangerous state is Louisiana, where an estimated 45.6 percent of households have at least one firearm. The death rate there per 100,000 is an astounding 19.04-almost ten times higher than the rate in Hawaii. Other states with high rates of gun ownership and corresponding high gunfire death rates include Alaska, Montana, Tennessee and Alabama.
Virginia (my state) ranks somewhere near the middle, with a household firearm ownership rate of 35.9 percent, and a gunfire death rate of 11.7 per 100,000. Still, that is five times more than the islands that make up the state of Hawaii.
Rules relating firearms in Hawaii are strict. According to the Legal Community Against Violence (LCAV), they include:
• No person may carry a concealed or unconconced pistol or revolver without a license to do so; however, permits for concealed weapons are rarely approved.
• Hawaii has no provisions allowing concealed weapons permit holders from other states to carry understood firearms. This includes police officers from other states who are in Hawaii on official business.
• Individuals who wish to purchase firearms must apply for a permission from the county chief of police, who "enforces the federal purchaser prohibitions." Then 14 days later the purchaser can pick up the gun.
• Magazines of 10 rounds or more are banned.
• Assault rifles and assault pistols are banned.
• No person shall be issued a permit for the acquisition of a pistol or revolver unless the person has completed a six-hour firearms safety training course.
• All firearms and ammunition must be registered with the chief of police of the county where the gun owner resides.
• It is unlawful to possess or carry a loaded firearm on any public highway without a permit to carry.
• When firearms are sold, even privately, the transferor is required to provide the name of the person to whom the firearm was transferred and a description of the firearm to the chief of police via registered mail within 48 hours.
• A gun owner is guilty of "criminally negligent storage of a firearm" if he or she keeps it where a minor is likely to have access to it.
• All gun licenses must be renewed annually.
• During a national emergency, all firearms held by dealers may be located and held in possession by the state.
When asked about the VPA report and accompanying statistics, Maxwell Cooper, legislative co-chairman for the Hawaii Rifle Association (loosely affiliated with the NRA), told the Honolulu Star-Bulletin, "I think that VPC has juggled the statistics to support themselves. " He added that, in his opinion, "Strict laws have no relationship to criminal abuse of firearms because criminals do not respond to laws."
Still, visitors to Hawaii as well as residents have little to fear from gun violence. Thoughtful citizens can attribute that to whatever they wish.