RICHARD WALKER / RWALKER@STARBULLETIN.COM
Honolulu police officer Ronald Taira talked yesterday about weapons on display at HPD headquarters. From left, a Barrett .50-caliber semiautomatic, a Remington 700 .308-caliber rifle and an M-4 assault rifle. Law enforcement officials support a bill that would ban .50-caliber guns.
Stalled bill would ban ‘nightmare’ weapon
A bill to ban high-caliber rifles in Hawaii is stalled at the state Legislature and has met opposition from local gun advocates.
Although law enforcement officials argue that .50-caliber rifles and ammunition have virtually no place in Hawaii, gun owners maintain they have a constitutional right to the weapon.
Police Chief Boisse Correa and Maj. Gregory Lefcourt said the bill was drawn up as a preventative measure, given the possible damage a bullet of such high caliber can inflict.
"It was designed for the military," Lefcourt said. "People have said they can use this for hunting, but the damage it will do to an animal is so tremendous, it actually vaporizes the area that it strikes."
To draw a comparison, police officials displayed a .50-caliber Barrett sniper rifle and compared it with a Remington .308 rifle and an M4 assault rifle.
Lefcourt said the Barrett would be able to accurately strike a target from the top of the Police Department's downtown headquarters, where yesterday's news conference was held, to the state Capitol, a distance of 0.4 miles.
Lefcourt said gun advocates came out in strong opposition to the bill, and he urged the public to support the measure. The bill has been deferred by the House Judiciary Committee. Judiciary Chairman Tommy Waters could not be reached for comment yesterday.
Police officials also said there are only two ranges in Hawaii that can handle that caliber of weapon, and both are on military grounds.
But Max Cooper, a legislative spokesman for the Hawaii Rifle Association, said guests can be brought to the ranges. The bill would also bar people like Cooper, who has military access because of his prior Army service, from owning and using the rifle.
"They are useful for hunting," said Cooper, adding that the rifles are used for damage control from goats on Oahu.
Lefcourt argued that a bullet could take down a plane if it struck a fuel tank and that it could also strike a refinery from a great distance.
"It's virtually impossible to shoot down an airliner," Cooper said. "We have an expert who testified that you're much more likely to have an airliner brought down with a lightning strike."
Lefcourt said there are 125 registered .50-caliber rifles in Hawaii, with 90 on Oahu. Police said no major incidents on Oahu were tied to the rifle, and hope to prevent future incidents.
"We talk about it being a concern," Correa said, "but it really gives us nightmares."