Gun Ownership Lessons For Hawaii From Missouri - Honolulu Civil Beat

About the Author

Elna Nagasako

Elna Nagasako is a physician trained in health policy and health equity. She has been a medical school faculty member, primary care provider, medical journal deputy editor, and a member of national, state, and regional workgroups for a variety of organizations.

Have you ever wondered what a Hawaii with more guns in more places might look like?

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The recent U.S. Supreme Court decision protecting the “right to keep and bear arms in public for self-defense” has forced the Honolulu Police Department to begin changing permit procedures for carrying guns in public.

I recently moved back to Hawaii from a state which loosened gun laws over the last several years and I can tell you what my experience was like.

I moved to Missouri 20 years ago, spending the better part of the last two decades in one of its major cities. In 2008, the Supreme Court’s Heller decision extended 2nd Amendment protections to individual gun ownership for purposes such as self-defense.

After the Heller decision, some states, such as Hawaii, continued to keep guns largely out of community spaces. Others, such as Missouri, vastly increased the ability of an individual to carry guns into public areas. Here are some of the things I observed in Missouri.

Daily Gun Deaths

Living in a region with more guns meant gun violence and gun death were much more common. In the local news it was common to read about gun deaths daily.

According to the Giffords Law Center, on average, Hawaii has one gun-related death every seven days while Missouri has one gun-related death every seven hours. Living in a region with more guns also meant more shootings in areas where I spent time with my family.

A 2018 gun control rally at the Hawaii State Capitol. Anthony Quintano/Civil Beat/2018

To name just a few examples, on our walking route to a neighborhood park, a leader of a music nonprofit was shot while sitting in his car, and at the local major-league ballpark, a fan was grazed by a stray bullet during a game.

Although carrying a gun for self-defense may seem safer, living in a state with looser gun laws and more guns meant being surrounded by more gun violence.

I was concerned about guns being used in situations where emotions could run high. During our time in Missouri, there were multiple shootings connected to workplace or other disputes. In one notable example from a nearby suburb, a person with a history of conflict with the city government shot seven people at a city council meeting, including the mayor, council members, and police officers.

Nor is harm from guns always directed outward. In fact, as terrifying and common as gun homicides are, the biggest contributor to gun deaths in Missouri and nationally is suicide.

When we think about more people carrying guns in more places, we should remember that people have days where they are under duress and think carefully about what protections are in place at the individual and regulatory levels to prevent this kind of harm.

Exposure To Guns

I worried about my children’s exposure to guns, both in the types of shootings I described above, and also via unintended exposure due to a gun left unsecured. Elementary school children in Missouri have brought guns to school and have accidentally shot and killed family members.

Missouri is not alone in these issues. A 2021 national survey found that less than half of firearm owners with children stored their guns unloaded and locked. As people consider bringing a gun into their household for protection, they should be aware that having a gun in a household carries risks to children and ask themselves whether their family will actually be safer.

Do not misunderstand me. It would be easy to think that I mean that gun owners are careless or irresponsible when that is the opposite of the truth. The folks I personally knew in Missouri who owned guns were knowledgeable people who cared about their families and communities.

Likewise, this piece is not about hunting, which has a long tradition both in Missouri and Hawaii. My focus is specifically around acknowledging the risks of having more gun availability for the reason of self-defense.

If you are not a gun owner but are considering one for protection, realize that there are also risks to gun ownership, including to those in your household.

If you are a gun owner, please talk to people considering applying to carry about the responsibility and effort that goes into safe storage and gun ownership.

Regardless of where you stand, I urge you to pay attention to the gun regulations as they evolve here in Honolulu. Be sure decision-makers know that the levels of gun exposure and violence on the mainland in states such as Missouri are unacceptable here.

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About the Author

Elna Nagasako

Elna Nagasako is a physician trained in health policy and health equity. She has been a medical school faculty member, primary care provider, medical journal deputy editor, and a member of national, state, and regional workgroups for a variety of organizations.

Latest Comments (0)

Lucid article by a medical doctor who was born and raised in Hilo and clearly has lived in Hawai'i which has about the lowest rate of gun ownership in the nation and clearly has lived in Missouri which is truly gun country. People who love guns should live in gun country and not import their admiration of weaponry it to Hawaii nei.

irwinhill · 6 months ago

Couple items to address. I think many of your stats are skewed as items are left out in key data points. Gifford Law Center is a left leaning anti2A organization. Perhaps using the FBI stats would be a more credible source.You are assuming that more guns will be purchased because of the recent SC Ruling. Fact is responsible gun owners as myself follow laws. Criminals dont.Rand study Summary 2020: Evidence that shall-issue concealed-carry laws may increase violent crime is limited. Evidence for the effect of shall-issue laws on total homicides, firearm homicides, robberies, assaults, and rapes is inconclusive.Great article to educate oneself.Thanks for the debate if allowed.

Stopthemadness · 6 months ago

I have been lucky for much of my life to live in communities where crimes rates are quite low and gun ownership is rare. However, I can relate to the circumstances and experiences of some of my acquaintances who live in areas of the country where the rates of armed robbery, home invasion and intentional homicide are high and police response times are long. When someone I knew for a long time tells me earnestly it is a matter of survival in their community to always have a gun nearby, it is not easy for me to come up with arguments to the contrary.BTW, Missouri and Hawaii are very different and therefore cannot be fairly compared when it comes to crime rates and gun issues. It would be more appropriate to compare Hawaii to Missouri sans Kansas City and St. Louis, two cities that account for only 13% of Missouri's population but 62% of the state's intentional homicides.

Chiquita · 6 months ago

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