What’s the Law: Assault Pistols



Question: What is an assault pistol and is it legal to own in Hawaii?

Answer: In July 1992, Hawaii prohibited assault pistols and made it a class C felony to possess, sec. 134-8 HRS. Assault pistol is defined by sec. 134-1 HRS as a semi-auto with a detachable magazine and has two or more of the following: (1) Magazine attaches outside the pistol grip; (2) Treaded barrel that accepts an extension, flash suppressor, forward handgrip, or silencer; (3) Fully or partial shrouded barrel to protect a second hand; (4) 50 oz. or more unloaded; (5) If center-fire, a barrel length of 12” or more; (6) Semi-auto version of an automatic firearm. Complicated criteria, but some typical examples are the pistol versions of the AR-15, AK-47, M-1 carbine, Ruger 10/22, and Thompson “Tommy gun”. Also illegal is the new Ruger Charger pistol.

Put simply: a) Is it a semi-auto handgun? b) Does it have a detachable magazine that inserts outside the pistol grip? c) Does it have anything covering or partially covering the barrel? If so, it is most likely an illegal assault pistol.

If you had an assault pistol registered to you prior to July 1992, it is legal to own (grandfathered in). However you cannot sell or transfer ownership in Hawaii. But you could sell it to a buyer out of state via a FFL dealer. Within 90 days of your death, the assault pistol has to be permanently rendered inoperable or transferred to a FFL dealer and sent out of Hawaii or turned in to the police, sec. 134-4(e) HRS. A Hawaii FFL dealer can inventory assault pistols, but it can’t be sold to Hawaii residents. A grandfathered assault pistol owner could convert a registered assault pistol to a rifle by permanently installing a 16”-plus barrel and a butt stock. HPD will re-register it as a semi-auto rifle. Note however, you cannot convert a long gun to a handgun.

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