Capitol View

By Richard Borreca

Wednesday, December 1, 1999

Xerox slayings give new
life to gun-control

THE flowers are off the low, gray wall along the Xerox Building on Nimitz Highway, but for the seven families of the shooting victims, their most terrible season is beginning.

The Xerox shooting tragedy highlights efforts under way to continue to control the spread of handguns in Hawaii.

The issue of gun control at the Legislature is always difficult -- logic and reason soon fade as marathon public hearings turn nasty.

In 1993, Hawaii came remarkably close to the goal, however, when the state Senate passed a handgun ban.

Robert Marks was attorney general at the time and handgun control supporters credit him with playing a large role in the behind-the-scenes campaign to stop the access to handguns.

"Any gun-control measure brings out a small number of people who have very strong sentiments," Marks recalls.

"The most passionate are not the hunters; they tend to be pretty realistic. The most impassioned are those who believe we are a free people because we are armed," he said.

The Senate gun ban did not pass in the House six years ago, so now a group is forming to press next year's Legislature for more significant gun registration laws.

Already Hawaii is known for its stringent laws. Earlier this year Hawaii was one of just four states to earn an A-minus, the highest grade given by Handgun Control Inc.'s survey of state laws designed to keep guns out of schools.

"Hawaii is more than an island paradise. It's a place that takes very seriously the need to protect children from handguns," Naomi Paiss, a spokeswoman for Handgun Control, said in August.

The slayings at Xerox prove that as strict as Hawaii's laws may be, they raise questions about their effectiveness. So, the coalition pushing for new limits on gun owners, such as mandatory registration renewals and limits on the purchase of ammunition, will have a chance next year to actively contribute to Hawaii's reputation as a place of peace and safety.

"What we discovered is that there is more that we need to do," says Rabbi Avi Magid of Temple Emanu-El.

He was supported by former state representative and police officer, Annelle Amaral, who is now with the League of Women Voters.

"We believe Hawaii is ready to take a significant step to control handguns," she said.

Supporters say they have a good chance with the re-registration approach to gun control.

"No one has thought about re-registration in an organized way," Rabbi Magid says.

"You look at it and say, 'Of course it makes sense.' "

IF drivers must get their licenses renewed, then why shouldn't someone owning a gun also get a check every year or so, the gun-control supporters reason.

Marks warns that moving any legislation through the small, but organized and impassioned, gun lobby is difficult. In theory, he says, gun control is a good and easy issue for politicians to support, because the public overwhelmingly supports making Hawaii safer.

The gun lobby can counter with an intense election year campaign targeted against the Legislature's key committee chairmen who might approve a gun-control bill.

The defense and perhaps the courage of Hawaii's politicians to push for it can be found, however, in a few minutes considering this holiday season and the families of the seven men murdered last month along Nimitz Highway.

Legislature Directory
Hawaii Revised Statutes
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Richard Borreca reports on Hawaii's politics every Wednesday.
He can be reached by e-mail at

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