Ask any military veteran: In combat, the most crucial briefing defines the rules of engagement. When can you shoot to kill? When must you use pragmatic restraint? These rules protect fellow service members and prevent the loss of innocent life.
The Hawaii Legislature just advanced a bill that will change our state’s rules of engagement, making it more permissible to fight, be violent, and cause serious injury or death. This bill is an aberration of all that we stand for in this state, and the legislators who supported it should be embarrassed.
This bill — House Bill 2464 — which passed the House Judiciary and Hawaiian Affairs Committee last week, is modeled after the dangerous Shoot First laws that exist on the continent.
The bill is similar to Florida’s Shoot First law — sometimes called “Stand Your Ground” — that facilitated the acquittal of Trayvon Martin’s killer. In tragic irony, the bill passed committee here one day before the 10-year remembrance of Trayvon’s death. The self-defense laws currently in place in the state already afford us the right to protect ourselves, including use of deadly force, if necessary. This bill tells citizens that even if they could safely walk away from a dangerous situation, they can choose to escalate the violence, shoot to kill, and claim self-defense.
This bill encourages violence. Why would we want that? More aggression, more toxic behavior, more lives taken. This is not our way.
I know something about fighting and violence. I am a fourth-generation Army combat veteran, deployed to Afghanistan with the 25th Infantry Division, and was wounded in combat.
I led soldiers to war. I know how to keep people safe in dangerous situations. That involves well-crafted rules, discipline, and the requirement to use violence only as a last resort.
This bill would make violence a first option. And if a party happens to be armed, this bill becomes a Shoot First law.
They want Hawaii to join those states — states with much higher rates of violent crime and gun deaths. These groups advocate violence and death to support the NRA’s “guns everywhere, for anyone, no questions asked” agenda.
Nationally, laws like this are associated with more than 700 additional gun deaths each year.
Moreover, if the U.S. Supreme Court rules against the state of New York in a pending decision on permitting laws for the public carrying of guns, Hawaii’s gun laws could change, too. That would lead to more armed citizens in public. Combined with this Shoot First law, we will have more shooting deaths in Hawaii.
My military training taught me that the application of violence and the decision to take a human life should not be taken lightly. I was taught that if you can accomplish your mission without harming others, you must.
If you need to defend yourself, defend yourself. If you can safely retreat, retreat. Violence should always be a last resort. That’s how our laws read now. There’s no need to amend them.
Say no to violence and no to the gun lobby. Tell your state representative to oppose HB 2464.
I was shocked this bill made it out of committee. I asked myself, how — in a state with such strong gun violence prevention laws — can we support a bill similar to those that have caused so many gun deaths in other states?
The tell-tale markers are there. This is a bill with the gun lobby behind it. The bill is supported by the U.S. Concealed Carry Association and the National Rifle Association of Hawaii. In testimony supporting the bill, the Hawaii Firearms Coalition lauded states with laws that encourage people to shoot first.
By Chris Marvin
Honolulu resident Chris Marvin is a retired Army officer and a member of the Everytown Veteran Advisory Council.
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