Questions about how the law would be fully enacted have not yet been addressed.

A new conservative voting bloc emerged in the debate over concealed gun legislation at Honolulu City Council Wednesday, with three council members from the west side of the island voting against restrictions on concealed firearms and six others voting for the limitations.

Council members Augie Tulba, Val Okimoto and Andria Tupola voted against the bill. Tulba represents Pearl Harbor, Okimoto represents Pearl City and Tupola represents Waianae.

Five others, from the northern and eastern side of Oahu, voted for it. Council member Calvin Say voted “reservations,” which is a way council members are allowed to vote yes while indicating they have concerns about the vote they are casting.

A vote with “reservations” is registered as a “yes.”

HPD 'Permit to Acquire firearms' sign at the HPD main station.
HPD ‘Permit to Acquire firearms’ sign at the HPD main station. (Cory Lum/Civil Beat/2022)

Mayor Rick Blangiardi wants to place restrictions on carrying guns into what has been called “sensitive places,” including schools, government buildings, parks and on public transportation. The legislation called Bill 57, identifies these kinds of places and also permits private businesses and charitable organizations to post signs restricting guns on their properties.

Blangiardi appeared at the council meeting to make a strong pitch for the legislation, saying that Hawaii “has a history of being a gun-free culture for more than 170 years,” and that he believes that what he called “common sense” restrictions will protect people’s safety.

Democratic controlled Hawaii is being compelled to review its historic gun restrictions because of a 6-to-3 ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court in June 2022 that expanded gun owners’ rights to carry firearms outside the home. The ruling, referred to in short-hand as “Bruen” after Kevin P. Bruen, a New York state police official, found that a New York gun law passed in 1911 was unconstitutional.

In the wake of the ruling, Honolulu was forced to revise its concealed carry gun permit to allow licensed gun owners to carry guns in public places.

About 30 people in Honolulu have obtained licenses to do so since last year. Another 400 applicants have applied for licenses, according to Honolulu Police Chief Joe Logan.

Honolulu Police Chief Joe Logan signing the first license to carry a concealed firearm in Honolulu County Dec. 28, 2022. (HPD Provided)

Public testimony, either in person, remotely or by email, ran strongly in opposition to Blangiardi’s proposal. About 400 Oahu residents testified on the bill, with about 300 gun advocates opposing restrictions and about 100 gun opponents supporting them.

Several gun owners said they would sue the city if the law was enacted, saying they believe it infringes on their rights to take their guns wherever they go.

Five of the council members clearly agree with Blangiardi, with Bill 57 passing its second reading. Council member Esther Kiaaina said she “strongly supports” gun safety legislation.

Logan said HPD supports “the intent of the bill and supports the bill as it is written.”

Tulba said that he is not a gun owner himself but believes that the legislation is likely unconstitutional because people have a legal right to have a gun. Tupola questioned implementation of the law and what kinds of signage it would entail.

Okimoto asked whether city officials have statistics that support their contention that licensed gun owners pose any particular risk to others and that their gun possession needs to be further regulated. Several officials said they had no data one way or another.

Tulba said he believes Honolulu is exposing itself to expensive court litigation because gun enthusiasts will sue the city to stop the legislation from being enacted. He said it would be better to allow the state of Hawaii to bear the risk and expense, as the situation is also under review in the state legislature.

Council member Tyler Dos Santos-Tam, who voted to move the legislation forward, said people in Honolulu “want clarity about the rules,” and that people on both sides of the issue need to know the guidelines.

He said state legislation could take up to five months to be enacted.

“The challenge is right now,” he said. “There are no rules and there is a desire by my colleagues to have something in place,” he said.

Still, he acknowledged there had been a lot of testimony about the law, and that some “interesting points had been raised” that will be reviewed in council committees.

The bill will be referred back to the Executive Matters and Legal Affairs Committee, and then return to the council within the next six weeks.

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