After Hawaii County’s “sensitive locations” bill became law Friday, limiting the places where concealed weapons can be carried, Pastor Dion Maeda of the Connect Point Church in Hilo said his parishioners will still be allowed to carry weapons when they worship.

“We shouldn’t take away the rights of people in church to protect and defend themselves,” he said.

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Although churches or religious assemblies are among the locations restricted by the county bill, the administrator of the church, facility, or congregation can allow weapons on the grounds.

Hawaii County is the first in the state to enact a law to restrict concealed weapons from being taken into designated areas including medical centers, parks, schools and on public transportation.

The Honolulu City Council has introduced a sensitive locations bill and the state is expected to introduce a statewide concealed carry law when the Legislature convenes in January.

The Hawaii County bill has a distinguishing feature — owners of private property open to the public must post a conspicuous sign if concealed carry is not permitted on the premises.

Pastor Dion Maeda of Connect Point Church, Hilo will allow his congregation members to carry concealed guns in the church. David Croxford/Civil Beat/2022

Maeda said the 500-member congregation already has a safety and security team in place and if one of the congregation has a concealed carry permit and wants to bring a gun to church, they will need to inform the security team.

“We are not restricting anyone,” Maeda said. “I know they had to put out some rules, but I don’t think they should dictate to churches what they can and cannot do.”

Many states across the country are struggling to write new concealed carry regulations and restrictions following the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling that expanded gun owners’ rights to carry firearms outside the home.

Hawaii County Council Bill 220 became law Friday, the deadline for Mayor Mitch Roth to either sign it or allow it to become law, according to the County Clerk’s office. As of Dec. 5, Hawaii County police have issued 62 concealed gun permits since revising the gun carry permits on Aug. 24. Other sensitive locations in the Hawaii bill include day care and voting service centers, bars and restaurants that serve alcohol.

Former County Councilman Aaron Chung, who introduced the bill, said he is proud of the work done by the county’s lawmakers and Corporation Counsel to recognize the need for the law and to move quickly to pass the bill.

Chung said that “public opinion is overwhelmingly in support of putting safeguards in place.”

Russell Ruderman, president of Island Naturals Market and Deli, would like to maximize the number of places where private carry is prohibited and is now drafting signs to bar guns at his three stores, which will be posted as soon as the bill becomes law.

“I believe that we should have the right to ban them from our stores,” Ruderman said. “We are protecting kids at schools and county parks. Why can’t we protect kids in the grocery store?”

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