Catherine Toth Fox: Keeping Guns Away From 'Sensitive Places' Isn't About Violating Rights - Honolulu Civil Beat

About the Author

Catherine Toth Fox

Born and raised on Oahu, Catherine Toth Fox is an editor, writer, children’s book author, blogger and former journalism instructor. She is currently the editor at large for Hawaii Magazine and lives in Honolulu with her husband, son and two dogs. You can follow her on Instagram @catherinetothfox. Opinions are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect Civil Beat's views.

Opinion article badgeIn a span of one week in November there were two mass shootings in the U.S. — seven died in a shooting at a Walmart Supercenter in Chesapeake, Virginia, and five were killed in an LGBTQ nightclub in Colorado Springs.

It’s hard to believe that fewer deaths would have occurred if more people had been carrying guns as defense. But that’s what some gun advocates in Hawaii are saying in opposition to Bill 57, which would prohibit people from carrying concealed firearms in so-called sensitive places like schools, churches and parks. The Honolulu City Council passed the first reading of the bill on Tuesday.

In June the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a New York law that required people to show a specific need to carry a firearm in public. That means similar laws in five other states, including Hawaii, are now unconstitutional. Gun owners in Honolulu have begun applying for permits to carry concealed firearms in public. (There are already 600 permit applications pending, according to the Honolulu Police Department.) But it’s unclear when approvals will begin.

Hence Bill 57.

If gun owners can carry concealed weapons in public, this bill would limit the places in which that would be allowed.

But opponents of the bill have argued that gun-toting citizens would be an asset to the public. Kainoa Kaku, president of the Hawaii Rifle Association, testified in a public hearing in October that people requesting concealed carry permits are law-abiding folks who will make the community a safer place.

“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,” Kaku said.

Another resident who opposed Bill 57 wrote: “I prefer the idea that if I am out and about and something should happen, that there is a chance someone who is carrying is there to help.”

Members of the public are given 2 minutes to give testimony on gun permitting at the HPD main station.
Testimony has been heated in debates over new concealed carry rules. The City Council is weighing a measure that would bar weapons from places deemed sensitive such as schools, parks and churches. Cory Lum/Civil Beat/2022

I don’t doubt there are gun owners who are deft at shooting. I also don’t doubt their desire to protect their families and communities.

But can that be said for everyone who carries a firearm? Can we trust the skill of everyone who decides to use a weapon in a public place? At a crowded beach? On a playground? At a school?

It seems like a huge risk — and, honestly, one that I’m not comfortable with.

I think about the shooting in the crowded nightclub in Colorado Springs. The gunman was tackled by an unarmed Army vet, who then used the gunman’s own weapon to beat — not shoot — him. Imagine if dozens of people pulled out weapons and starting firing at who they thought was the gunman.

Imagine the confusion. Who’s the culprit? How would you know? And are we supposed to believe everyone with a gun is highly trained and capable of striking the right person without any error? That others wouldn’t get injured or killed in the crossfire? That more guns in this situation would be a better, safer alternative?

I don’t own a gun, but I know a fair number of people who do. And I’m not against gun ownership. But I don’t agree with the argument that just because something is a constitutional right it doesn’t come with responsibility and parameters. It’s the same with the First Amendment and the freedom of speech; not all speech — defamation, child pornography, perjury, blackmail — is protected. Even conservative U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia noted that the Second Amendment, like all other rights, is not absolute.

The nonprofit Gun Violence Archive reports that this year is likely going to be the second-highest year for mass shootings in the U.S. since it started keeping records in 2014, according to the nonprofit Gun Violence Archive. (A mass shooting is defined as one in which at least four people are shot, excluding the shooter.) There have been at least 618 mass shootings through Nov. 22, compared with 690 last year.

I just can’t see how more people with guns is the solution.

I get the argument that these shooters aren’t concerned about the law, that criminals find ways to get guns, that bad people do bad things. One bad apple spoils the bunch — and that’s exactly why there are proposals like Bill 57. Because it takes just one bad apple to kill 19 kids and two adults at an elementary school, to murder six coworkers at Walmart, to shoot 60 people and wound 413 at a music festival.

The point of the bill isn’t to take away gun rights from anyone. It’s about keeping as many people as safe as possible.

Hawaii has had one of the lowest violent crime rates in the nation, usually in the bottom 10% nationally, without these new changes to gun laws. Why not do everything we can to keep it that way?

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About the Author

Catherine Toth Fox

Born and raised on Oahu, Catherine Toth Fox is an editor, writer, children’s book author, blogger and former journalism instructor. She is currently the editor at large for Hawaii Magazine and lives in Honolulu with her husband, son and two dogs. You can follow her on Instagram @catherinetothfox. Opinions are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect Civil Beat's views.

Latest Comments (0)

Cat, not to discount your arguments, but weren't both locations of mass shootings you cited-- Wal-Mart and the LGBTQ club-- private, not public, spaces, and thus not impacted by the SCOTUS ruling, now would they be by Bill 57?

Rob · 9 months ago

Mass shootings lead to headlines about gun violence that lead to talk about gun control that leads to panic among gun and ammo consumers that leads to increased sales of guns and ammo that leads to a proliferation of guns and ammo that leads to mass shootings. Only in America.

Fred_Garvin · 10 months ago

Agree with all Catherine said. I would not feel safer if I knew that there were people around me who carried guns. I would worry about one of them shooting me, my family, or other people by mistake, or through a momentary spike of anger. The ones that spoke up the loudest in objection to Bill 57 are the ones that worry me the most. I don't trust those who think they are "sheep dogs." I want guns kept out of sensitive places. That's how I'd feel safer.

Tomodachi · 10 months ago

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