Sunday, February 03, 2008

Encoded Ammunition: Hawaii

According to an article in Knowledge Is Power, Hawaii has also introduced a bill requiring "Encoded Ammunition". (The link takes you to the "Hawaii Reporter", which cites the NRA as the original source and encourages readers to "... [p]lease contact the members of the House Judiciary Committee and respectfully urge them to protect the Second Amendment rights of Hawaii’s law-abiding gun owners by opposing HB2392."
This represents the fifth state bill pertaining to "encoding ammunition" presented to a state legislature within the month of January, 2008.

The text of the bill is, in most respects, almost identical to that presented in the Mississippi state legislature during this time period.

A personal note: even before I had become aware that this bill had been proposed in Hawaii, I had begun to suspect that these bills were not being independently proposed. That is, the verbiage included in the bills includes so many similarities that it is beyond reason to presume that legislators in each of the FIVE states (Maryland, Indiana Illinois, Mississippi, and now Hawaii) woke up one morning and were struck with the thought that "Hey, I think I'll introduce a bill requiring that my state should allow only 'encoded ammunition' to be sold!"

I had expected to find some reference to this ex parte proposal on the websites of The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence (HCI), the Violence Policy Center, the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, or the Americans for Gun Safety (a broken link ... have they FINALLY 'gone under'?). Not entirely surprisingly, I found no NGO websites openly taking credit for, or acknowledging the accomplishment of a similar 'sister organization' which may have organized this assault of American 2nd Amendment Rights.

Just because you're paranoid, that doesn't mean they aren't out to get you!
Not only is the verbiage an indication of collusion, but the timing is also suspect. Every bill was introduced within a 3-week period.

This leads me to believe that a 'central source' is providing a package of gun control verbiage to state legislators across the nation. This include the text of a basic law, with hints about how it could be tailored to fit the cultural context unique to each state ... while still following the basic construct of a law which would make it financially difficult for any honest citizen to conform to the onerous requirements of the law.

Common threads to these bills [which generally reflect the stated purpose of the "Microcoding of Ammunition" law enacted in California in 2007 (October 15, 2007: Schwartzenegger signs handgun microstamp bill) ... note that this California law requires handguns to 'microstamp' information onto the base of cartridges, NOT that the ammunition must include an 'encoded' serial number on the bullet!] include:
  • A short time span during which the law is to be enacted ... typically within 6 months to one year of introduction of the bill;
  • Only "Encoded Ammunition" may be sold in the state within 6 months of introduction of the bill;
  • Only "Encoded Ammunition" may be OWNED in the state within 12 months of introduction of the bill;
  • Penalties for ownership of "noncoded" [sic] ammunition to be $1000 fine for vendors (or private citizens") after stated deadlines;
  • Penalties for manufacture of "noncoded" [sic] ammunition to be $1000 fine for "manufacturers" of ammunition after stated deadlines for the first offense, $5000 for the second offense, $10,000 for the third offense;
  • No definition of "Manufacturer", no provision to protect those who "hand load" or "reload" their own ammunition, no reason why private citizens who reload their own ammunition should not be considered as a "Manufacturer" of ammunition within this law;
  • No provision for delay of enaction of the law, or for delays of penalties under the law, if circumstances preclude development of technology which would definitively support this law, or if problems developed in finding a vendor which can reliably or accurately (or economically!) perform the "encoding" of ammunition;
  • Imposition of a tax (from 5 cents to 0.005 cents per round) imposed on purchase of "encoded ammunition", purported to support the infrastructure necessary to fund a 'database' or 'tracking system' to be developed by the state to record ammunition transfers;
  • No provision to fund, or establish, a method of Enforcement of this law or, otherwise a process to restrict draconian measures to enforce the law.
There are a plethora of other failures of these bills to adequately (1) address potential unreasonable impositions upon legal owners of firearms, or (2) provide for Second Amendment rights which are supposedly protected from unreasonable search or seizure, or imposition of unrealistic fines or penalties, or (3) address obvious potential problems which may make this bills an unreasonable burden of citizens who may reasonably expect that their state legislatures might otherwise have the best interests of their otherwise law-abiding citizens as a primary concern.

To my surprise, Hawaii has protested against this bill in a "Testimony" (February 1, 2008) authored by "Mark J. Bennett, Attorney General or Lance M. Goto, Deputy Attorney General"

In this Testimony, the following comments are significant:

The Department of the Attorney General respectfully opposes this measure.

The purpose of this bill is to require all ammunition of specified caliber manufactured or sold in Hawaii that is capable of use in handguns, including assault pistols, to be coded to assist law enforcement in identifying and prosecuting offenders who use firearms in the commission of crimes. The bill also requires the Department of the Attorney General to establish a statewide database to track coded ammunition.

While the concept of maintaining a database to enable law enforcement to trace ammunition used in the commission of heinous crimes back to a certain criminal is a commendable one, we believe there are legal and practical problems presented by this bill that prevent the workable implementation of such a concept. This bill may be an instance where a firearm measure is unduly burdensome.
The concept of a bill which is "... unduly burdensome ..." may be foreign to some state legislators, but apparently it is not inconceivable to the Attorney General of Hawaii. Although the firearms ownership restrictions in Hawaii are often more strict ... or restrictive ... than those which are prevalent in other states, the Hawaiian Attorney General's Office seems to know a Bad Bill when he sees one. We applaud both gentlemen for their reluctance to impose a Bad Bill upon their fellow citizens, and note that the bill has been 'deferred', which is the bureaucratic equivalent of saying "Talk To The Hand!"

For details of the bill, go here. The discerning reader will note similarities to the Mississippi bill (full-text version), except that some lip-service has been paid in Hawaii to tax relief which the sponsors apparently felt were necessary to protect retailers in Hawaii.

UPDATE: February 3, 2008:
In case I neglected to mention it, Maryland introduced a similar bill.

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