As states like California, New York, and New Jersey have done, it appears that now Hawaii has moved forward with a ban on 80% lowers. Let's take a closer look at the bill the state's legislature ratified into law, House Bill 2744 H.D. 1 S.D. 2, and determine what, exactly, it has done in the way of restricting Second Amendment rights in the Aloha state.
What is SB2744 HD1 SD2?
This is a bill that was introduced January 2020 and ultimately passed in Hawaii in September 2020 with the intent of doing the following (according to its sponsors):
"Establishes the gun violence and violent crimes commission. Requires reports to the Legislature. Makes it a class C felony to purchase, manufacture, or otherwise obtain firearm parts for the purpose of assembling a firearm having no serial number. Amends certain requirements relating to firearms registration." Part one of the bill focuses on bureaucratic developments, like a state commission whose purpose is to research gun violence in the state.
So, Are 80% Lowers Banned in Hawaii?
Part two is the section of the bill that attacks gun rights and supersedes federal law and the Gun Control Act of 1968, which allows any private individual who may lawfully own a gun to fabricate a firearm from individual parts at home, without the need for an FFL. The bills monologues about the state's already-strict firearm laws (which have done nothing to prevent gun violence in Hawaii, because criminals don't obey gun laws) before establishing the following restrictions on law-abiding citizens:
"(1) Prohibit the manufacture, purchase, or obtaining of firearm parts for the purpose of assembling a firearm having no serial number; and
(2) Amend certain requirements relating to firearms registration."
Accordingly, Section 3 of the bill amends Chapter 134 of the Hawaii Revised Statutes to read:
"Manufacturing, purchasing, or obtaining firearm parts to assemble a firearm having no serial number; penalty.
(a) A person who is not licensed to manufacture a firearm under section 134-31, or who is not a dealer licensed by the United States Department of Justice, shall not, for the purpose of assembling a firearm, purchase, produce with a three-dimensional printer, or otherwise obtain separately, or as part of a kit:
- (1) A firearm receiver that is not imprinted with a serial number registered with a federally licensed manufacturer;
- (2) A firearm receiver that has not been provided a serial number that may be registered in accordance with section 134-3(c); or
- (3) Any combination of parts from which a firearm having no serial number may be readily assembled; provided that the parts do not have the capacity to function as a firearm unless assembled.
Violation of this section is a class C felony."
Hawaii's New Firearm Definitions
Parts one and two of this revised statute make it pretty clear that any kind of 80% lower (or 80% frame for a handgun) - which, once fabricated, is considered a firearm receiver without a serial number - is now illegal in the state of Hawaii. To really drive this point home, the state's legislature included three new definitions of what they consider a firearm receiver to be, and what they consider "assembling" of a firearm:
- "Assembly" means the fabrication of a firearm or the fitting together of component parts to construct a firearm.
- "Firearm receiver" means the part of a firearm that provides housing for the firearm's internal components, including a hammer, bolt, breechblock, action, or firing mechanism.
- "Firearm receiver" includes any object or part that is not a firearm frame or receiver in finished form but that is designed or intended to be used for that purpose and may readily be made into a firearm frame or receiver through milling or other means.
Ambiguity in The Bill
Hawaii's lawmakers included ambiguous and confusing language in this bill, perhaps as a way of deterring firearm ownership. Let's review. Under the amendments made to Section of Chapter 134, that third section ("...Any combination of parts from which a firearm having no serial number may be readily assembled") could technically include just about any firearm parts not considered firearms themselves. Why? Because any regular old lower parts kit, upper assembly, or, say, custom Glock barrel or trigger bar, could be used in tandem with an un-serialized receiver or frame to make an un-serialized firearm. The bill purposefully fails to exclude non-firearm parts like these, which may be purchased for the sake of upgrading an existing, serialized firearm.
So, are non-firearm parts like upper receivers and parts kits without any frame or receiver included banned, too? We don't know. Unfortunately, like we've seen in places like California, it'll take one brave gun owner or Second Amendment advocacy group to sue the state for clarification.
Are AR-15 Uppers Now Firearms in Hawaii?
Looking at what Hawaii now considers to be a firearm receiver, it's entirely possible. Since SB2744's definition of a firearm receiver now includes the part of a firearm that houses the bolt, and since the AR-15 upper receiver is where the bolt carrier group is housed, the state's law enforcement may consider an upper receiver assembly to be a firearm.
However, this definition basically mirrors how the ATF defines a firearm receiver under federal law, and previous state laws already ratified in Hawaii have used this same definition for what the state considers to be a firearm receiver. So, it's entirely possible that nothing will change regarding the legality and ownership of AR-15 upper receivers, but we can't be certain. Again, ambiguity plays a potentially nefarious role here.
What If I Already Own an 80% Lower in Hawaii?
If you live in Hawaii, the state's lawmakers provided plenty of long-winded text in SB2744 to make sure you register your built-from-parts firearm:
"Every resident or other person arriving in the State who brings or by any other manner causes to be brought into the State a firearm of any description, whether usable or unusable, serviceable or unserviceable, modern or antique, shall register the firearm within five days after arrival of the person or of the firearm, whichever arrives later, with the chief of police of the county of the person's place of business or, if there is no place of business, the person's residence or, if there is neither a place of business nor residence, the person's place of sojourn.
Every person registering a firearm under this subsection shall be fingerprinted and photographed by the police department of the county of registration; provided that this requirement shall be waived where fingerprints and photographs are already on file with the police department. The police department shall perform an inquiry on the person by using the International Justice and Public Safety Network, including the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement query, the National Crime Information Center, and the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, pursuant to section 846-2.7 before any determination to register a firearm is made. Any person attempting to register a firearm, a firearm receiver, or the parts used to assemble a firearm, and who is found to be disqualified from ownership, possession, or control of firearms or ammunition under section 134-7, shall surrender or dispose of all firearms and ammunition pursuant to section 134-7.3."
Basically, you need to contact local law enforcement and submit yourself to fingerprinting, photographing, and cataloguing. As for "registering" the un-serialized firearm you built, a subsection was included in the bill for this, too:
"If the firearm has been assembled from separate parts and an unfinished firearm receiver, the entity that registered the firearm receiver shall be recorded in the space provided for the name of the manufacturer and importer, and the phrase "assembled from parts" shall be recorded in the space provided for model. If the firearm has been assembled from parts created using a three-dimensional printer, the entity that registered the firearm receiver shall be recorded in the space provided for the name of the manufacturer and importer, and the phrase "3-D printer" shall be recorded in the space provided for model."
And lastly, any unfinished receivers or frames that may be physically present in the state of Hawaii need to be registered through FFLs (Federal Firearm Licensees, dealers) before being sold as regular, serialized firearms:
An authorized dealer, as provided in section 134-31, or a dealer licensed by the United States Department of Justice, who brings, assembles, or causes to be brought into the State by any other means, separate parts and an unfinished firearm receiver that when assembled create a firearm, or parts created by a three-dimensional printer that when assembled create a firearm, shall register the unfinished firearm receiver and receive a serial number before the assembly of the firearm or the sale or transfer of unassembled firearm parts or a receiver to a third party in accordance with subsection (b). Any sale or transfer of unfinished firearm receivers by an authorized dealer to a third party shall be conducted as if they were fully assembled firearms with a serial number engraved on the firearm receiver and in accordance with the firearms permitting process in section 134-2.