Pressure is mounting on state and county lawmakers to finalize new gun laws more than four months after the U.S. Supreme Court expanded the right to carry firearms outside the home.

Many gun owners rushed to apply for permits after the Supreme Court ruled a concealed-carry weapons law was unconstitutional in June. The court subsequently struck down a decision by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that had supported Hawaii’s similarly restrictive gun laws.

In Hawaii, each county’s police department must write its own rules and issue concealed gun permits. Maui, Kauai and Hawaii counties have already adopted new rules to comply with the court’s decision and begun issuing concealed carry gun permits to those who meet the requirements.

Only the City and County of Honolulu has yet to approve new rules even as some 575 people are waiting for permits.

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 2 minutes to provide testimony on concealed-carry gun permit rules during a hearing at HPD headquarters. Cory Lum/Civil Beat/2022

Honolulu Police Chief Joe Logan said he is working with the Department of Corporation Counsel, which provides legal services for the city, to consider changes that reflect concerns raised at a public hearing last month, and he expects the rules to be finalized soon.

“We think we have the changes where we want them to be,” Logan said Wednesday in an interview. “Corporation Council is finalizing that with me. As soon as we get that good to go, I will sign it and get it over to the mayor’s office. I would have liked to have done it a month ago, but there are certain things out of my control.”

Sensitive Places

Where permits have been approved, gun owners with permits are allowed to carry their weapons anywhere in those counties except areas already restricted by law such as federal buildings or airports.

However, efforts to restrict guns in so-called sensitive places such as hospitals, schools and at public events are separate issues that require either a city ordinance or a state law. That has been complicated by the fact that federal courts have ruled that some revised gun carry restrictions are too strict and therefore unconstitutional.

Only Hawaii County is actively moving a bill through its County Council to define sensitive locations where carrying a concealed weapon would be illegal, although the other counties and the state are working on similar initiatives.

The measure, which was introduced by Councilman Aaron Chung, would bar carrying guns in hospitals, schools, churches, playgrounds and parks and other places designated as sensitive.

“Because of the (Supreme Court) decision we are anticipating an increase in the number of guns being made available. In anticipation of that, it was important for us to act,” Chung said Friday.

According to a Kauai County spokesperson, the Garden Island has no immediate plans to implement sensitive locations restrictions but is involved in discussions with the state Attorney General’s Office and the other counties to create uniform laws across the state.

Similarly, a Maui County spokesperson said county officials are discussing legislation regarding sensitive locations but no specific bills are being considered at this time.

Mayor Rick Blangiardi has asked the Honolulu City Council to consider a sensitive places ordinance. David Croxford/Civil Beat/2022

In September, Mayor Rick Blangiardi asked the Honolulu City Council to consider a sensitive places ordinance and submitted a draft bill for consideration. The bill has not yet been introduced at the council.

Blangiardi said in an email Friday that the draft ordinance proposes to designate certain locations as sensitive places where firearms are prohibited, including schools, government buildings, parks, voting locations and public transportation.

The ordinance would also create a default rule for private businesses and charitable organizations, to make it clear that the property owner is empowered to decide whether firearms are allowed on the premises.

“I have received the Mayor’s proposed bill and plan to hear it this month,” Honolulu City Council Chairman Tommy Waters said Friday in a statement. “This a complex issue with many legal factors, and we must make sure it has the time and attention it deserves.”

Writing A State Law

State Sen. Karl Rhoads, chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said he is drafting a bill to define state law on concealed carry weapons and sensitive areas where guns should be restricted.

Rhoads said the bill would likely not limit the counties from adding requirements of their own to gun permits.

“I’m aware that the Second Amendment is being interpreted much more broadly than it has ever been interpreted before,” said Rhoads. “The weight of the evidence at this point is that more guns result in more deaths. If I thought that everybody carrying a gun would make people safer I would support it. I don’t have anything intrinsically against guns. I just don’t think the data is there.”

Chung said he expected the Legislature to come up with its own concealed carry rules in next year’s session, but he didn’t want to wait for that to happen.

Hawaii has had one of the lowest violent crime rates in the nation, Chung said, and lawmakers 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.

Pressure From Gun Advocates

The issue is especially contentious on Oahu, Hawaii’s most populous island. As of Oct. 28, 575 concealed-carry weapons permit applications were pending, according to the Honolulu Police Department.

During an Oct. 4 hearing, gun advocates testified that the rules are too restrictive and violate the Supreme Court’s intent that citizens be allowed to carry weapons in public for their own protection. Testifiers specifically said revisions are needed on the types of holsters allowed for various types of guns, that the type of handgun carried should not be limited as long as it is legally registered and that the requirement for annual license renewals is too frequent.

Many other people testified that they didn’t want any concealed gun permits issued despite the court’s decisions to protect the community.

“Because of the (Supreme Court) decision we are anticipating an increase in the number of guns being made available. In anticipation of that, it was important for us to act.” — Hawaii County Councilman Aaron Chung

Andrew Namiki Roberts, a director of the Hawaii Firearms Coalition, accused the police department of dragging its feet on the issue, saying it has had plenty of time since the hearing was held to update the rules. He pointed out the other three counties had done so.

Roberts and other gun advocates met with Logan Oct.25 to talk about the delay in issuing permits.

“There is no reason four months after a U.S. Supreme Court decision saying you have to issue permits that they haven’t been issued,” Roberts said last week. “We had a sit down with the police chief and he basically explained that they are getting rid of some small, minute parts, but almost all of the policy they originally wanted is going to stay in place.”

Roberts said lawsuits are already being planned to challenge Hawaii’s proposed rules if they go into effect as currently written.

“We sat down to explain to the chief that the current policy and the changes they plan to make are not going to hold water,” Roberts said. “Issuing permits to people that have already applied for their licenses is the biggest thing he could do to avoid a lawsuit.”

Some rules were changed following the meeting, Logan said, including removing the holster requirement, changing the proficiency rules and reducing the in-classroom training from an annual requirement to as needed.

“Maybe they felt I wasn’t listening, but I was absolutely listening. I took to heart what they said. After that we re-looked at the rules, we made some additional changes,” Logan said. “I think most of them want to help and protect when law enforcement maybe is not there. I give them the benefit of the doubt.”

“For me it is all about public safety. Hawaii has never had guns in 100 years plus,” he added. “How do I get society ready and prepared for armed citizens that they don’t know are armed?”

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