- Associated Press - Tuesday, March 1, 2016

HONOLULU (AP) - Hawaii lawmakers are pushing to keep guns out of the hands of stalkers and sex offenders to help combat domestic violence.

A bill considered Tuesday would ban anyone convicted of misdemeanor for stalking or sexual assault from buying or owning guns. The bill aims to tackle domestic violence, which the state Health Department says affects nearly 15 percent of adults in Hawaii.

Despite being in the midst of a nationwide gun debate, over a dozen states have strengthened laws to keep guns out of the hands of domestic abusers, sexual predators and stalkers. In a recent executive action on gun control, President Barack Obama said protecting domestic violence victims was one of his goals.

Nearly 90 percent of female homicide victims are killed by someone they know, according to the U.S. Department of Justice. Over three-fourths of women who were killed by intimate partners had been stalked before their death.

“Many Americans have differing opinions on the scope of our current gun laws,” Honolulu Prosecuting Attorney Keith Kaneshiro said. “However, nearly all of us would agree that many criminals - particularly criminals with a history of dangerous behavior towards others - should not have access to firearms.”

As written, current Hawaii gun laws prevent those convicted of violent crimes from buying guns. Yet supporters say this common-sense law is necessary to clarify that people convicted of stalking or sexual assault shouldn’t be able to own firearms.

The Honolulu Police Department said in nearly all stalking cases it investigates, there’s an “intimate relationship element.”

“The only issue to consider is the very small number of abusers who are charged with or convicted of stalking,” said Nanci Kreidman, CEO of the Domestic Violence Action Center.

But opponents to the bill say it’s too broad, and unwelcomed text messages could be counted as misdemeanor stalking. Local residents and groups such as the National Rifle Association said misdemeanors shouldn’t be disqualifying factors for purchasing guns.

“The potential for abuse by a spiteful accuser is frightening,” said David Soon, who opposed the bill.

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