In Conference Room A at the Honolulu police headquarters, residents sat on 12 black plastic chairs Tuesday as they waited for their turn to testify during a public hearing on the draft revised firearm permits and licenses rules that will soon allow Oahu residents to carry concealed firearms in public.

One by one people moved to the microphone to give their allocated two minutes of testimony for or against the rules in a tightly controlled process before Assistant Police Chief Glenn Hayashi, Capt. Parker Bode, Maj. Jay Trinidad, HPD senior legal adviser Lynne Uyema and deputy corporation council Daniel Gluck.

The state and counties need to craft new policies on gun carry following a U.S. Supreme Court decision earlier this summer that overturned Hawaii’s ban against carrying guns outside the home.

Hawaii has had one of the lowest violent crime rates in the nation, usually in the bottom 10% nationally. One reason for that is the geographic isolation that makes it harder to bring guns into the state illegally. By drafting new gun carry laws to comply with the Supreme Court’s decision, police chiefs in each county are trying to balance the rights of those who want to carry guns with those who believe that limiting the number of guns on the streets will better ensure safety.

Members of the public are given 2 minutes to give testimony on gun permitting at the HPD main station.
Members of the public were given two minutes to provide testimony on concealed carry gun permit rules during a hearing at HPD headquarters in Honolulu. Cory Lum/Civil Beat/2022

No questions were allowed during the hearing. Police only accepted opinions and comments on the rules. If no substantial changes are made in the rules following the hearing, the rules will be sent to Honolulu Mayor Rick Blangiardi for approval and signature. Police Chief Joe Logan has said that permits could begin being issued by the end of October.

“The testimony you provide will be given full and fair consideration,” Hayashi said. “If any substantial amendments are made to the proposed rules after today’s hearing, notice will be given and the public will be given another opportunity for input on the proposed amendments.”

For And Against

Erica Yamauchi, wearing a red Moms Demand Action T-shirt, testified in support of the rule changes, saying licenses should only go to people who are properly qualified to carry a gun in public. She suggested thorough background checks and tough training requirements.

Kevin Cole said the threat on the street from criminals is real, and people need guns to protect themselves.

“It is a constitutional right for citizens. That should be enough,” he said following his testimony.

As each person finished testimony and left the room, another person passed through security screening and entered the room, taking the vacated chair until more than 60 people had their say.

The agenda on amending Chapter 15 of the Rules of the Chief of Police includes setting a clear process to acquire and register firearms; setting requirements for testing, training and background checks for detective and guard agencies with armed employees; setting testing, training and background requirements to carry firearms outside the home whether concealed or unconcealed; providing guidelines for the manner in which firearms shall be carried; setting a process to certify instructors; setting a license renewal process; and providing circumstances under which licenses to carry and instructor certifications will be revoked.

Kainoa Kaku, president of the Hawaii Rifle Association, testified that people seeking concealed carry permits are law-abiding citizens who will make the community a safer place.

“Whenever the conversation of concealed carry comes up, anyone that wants to be able to carry a gun for lawful, moral self-protection is labeled a gun nut that is just looking for an excuse to shoot someone. This is far from the truth,” Kaku said before the hearing.

“Individuals like myself spend countless hours and thousands of dollars each year honing our craft because we know the responsibility of our safety and the safety of our families falls solely upon us. That when immediate action is required, the police are minutes away. Anyone with common sense knows the police cannot be everywhere all the time.”

Along Beretania Street fronting police headquarters, about 50 people milled about, some holding signs and waving at passing cars seeking support for allowing private citizens to carry guns.

Honolulu resident Scott Choy holds a US flag fronting the HPD main station as a line formed outside for an opportunity for the public to offer public testimony on gun permitting.
Honolulu resident Scott Choy holds a U.S. flag in front of HPD headquarters during a public hearing on new rules that would allow people to carry concealed guns in public. Cory Lum/Civil Beat/2022

Andrew Namiki Roberts, director of the Hawaii Firearms Coalition, said he spoke with Logan before the hearing when the chief came out to talk to people in the crowd.

“I think we are going to see some significant change to these rules,” Roberts said, standing on the steps of the headquarters building. “I’m hoping that within the next 30 days we’ll start seeing people issued permits.”

Roberts said that on average about 5% of the population in states that require a concealed carry weapon license choose to get one. If that holds true in Hawaii, between 50,000 to 60,000 people would apply for a concealed carry permit.

Concealed Gun Permits Are Coming

Blangiardi said in a Sept. 29 statement that firearms should be banned from areas such as schools, government buildings, parks, voting locations and public transportation. He also wants a rule created for private businesses and charitable organizations to decide whether firearms will be allowed on their premises.

Hawaii Coalition Against Gun Violence co-chair Deb Nehmad testified that she supports HPD’s proposed rules and believes that thoughtful regulations on who can carry firearms in public will help keep the community safe, but she is very concerned about visitors bringing guns into Hawaii.

“I am deeply concerned that the increase in gun ownership and proliferation of permitless carry laws on the mainland will inevitably lead to people bringing their guns into the state with no awareness of our laws and restrictions,” Nehmad said.

The coalition would like to see more robust gun-safety training, thorough mental health background checks, 10 years of criminal and court background checks, proof of liability insurance and secure storage for firearms during transport and at homes where a minor is present.

Honolulu Prosecutor Steve Alm said he is also worried that as more people carry guns in public, criminals could find ways to steal firearms.

“My guess is people that are applying for this permit are law-abiding folks. They may be very responsible citizens, but I hope they use real care to think about where they are going on any particular day. If they are going to spend the day at the park, just leave the gun at home. And don’t leave it in your glove box because cars get broken into more often than a lot of other crimes and so that would be a horrible thing if people stole firearms that way,” he said during an interview last week.

As of Sept. 29, HPD has received 477 applications for concealed carry permits but no permits have been approved yet, spokeswoman Michelle Yu said.

Neighbor Island Rules

Maui, Kauai, and Hawaii counties have already adopted new rules to comply with the Supreme Court’s decision.

The Hawaii County Council introduced a measure Tuesday to designate sensitive locations where guns would not be allowed similar to the ordinance proposed in Honolulu.

Hawaii county Acting Police Chief Kenneth Bugado Jr. released a statement Sept. 30 saying some sensitive locations should be restricted to people carrying guns.

“To preserve order and security in our county, the Hawaii Police Department is seeking to have defined sensitive locations where the carrying or possessing of firearms are restricted,” Hawaii County Acting Police Chief Kenneth Bugado Jr. said in a statement last week.

“We intend to start this process by having a bill introduced to the County Council next week for consideration. We feel that restricted sensitive locations should include hospitals, medical facilities, day care centers, churches, polling places, bars, airports, and government buildings,” he added.

According to Mayor Derek Kawakami’s office, Kauai county has not implemented specific location restrictions, but there is an ongoing conversation with the state Attorney General’s Office and all counties to create uniform gun laws across the state.

“We are just looking at all this,” Alm said. “The counties are proposing things. I’m sure the Legislature will be looking at this from a statewide standpoint when they get into session.”

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