City lawyers said the ruling won’t affect who might be eligible to register firearms.

People who self report being diagnosed with a behavioral, emotional or mental disorder will not automatically be prevented from registering a firearm in the City and County of Honolulu, a federal judge ruled Wednesday.

However, individuals with certain mental health conditions can still be prohibited from possessing firearms if they fail a followup mental health background check.

U.S. District Court Judge Derrick Watson made permanent a preliminary injunction he issued in November, which ruled that the Honolulu Police Department could not bar a U.S. Navy officer from registering firearms because he reported seeking counseling for feeling homesick and depressed on the registration form.

The injunction relates to an earlier version of the registration form which HPD has since changed.

Correction: This story has been corrected to clarify that the injunction was related to a version of the firearms application questionnaire no longer in use.

“Hawaii’s firearms laws — including the state’s prohibition on firearms possession by individuals diagnosed with a significant mental disorder — remain fully enforceable statewide,” said Dave Day, a special assistant to the Hawaii Attorney General.

Lawyers for the City and County of Honolulu also don’t think the ruling will have any impact on who might be eligible to register firearms.

HPD can continue to conduct mental health background checks as per the new form, Corporation Counsel Dana Viola said in a statement.

Correction: This story has been updated to reinforce that the ruling does not impinge on the the ability of the HPD to conduct background checks and that the department is not prohibited from requiring applicants to obtain a medical clearance.

“HPD will have better and more detailed information from members of the public who wish to register firearms,” Viola said. “Further, because of the changes to forms and procedures, the circumstances that led to the Santucci case will not happen again.”

HPD Police dept main station firearms gun registration area.
People who want to register a firearm might no longer defer seeking therapy, attorney Alan Beck said. (Cory Lum/Civil Beat/2018)

The judge also ruled that Honolulu must pay legal costs of $102,500, and the state of Hawaii must pay $28,000, pending negotiations.

“This lawsuit absolutely helped people’s Second Amendment rights and beyond anything else, it helps their medical rights,” said Alan Beck, a San Diego–based lawyer who worked with Honolulu lawyer Kevin O’Grady on the lawsuit.

People who want to register a firearm might no longer defer seeking therapy, he said.

“People have a right to seek therapy and psychiatric help without having the government intrude upon their rights,” Beck said. “This is a system that penalizes people that have sought out, voluntarily, psychiatric treatment.”

“Today marks another significant victory for the Second Amendment in Hawaii, all thanks to a homesick sailor,” the Hawaii Firearms Coalition announced in a social media post Thursday morning.

More Information From City Pending

It all began when Michael Santucci, a Navy officer, was stationed in Hawaii in February 2021. After a few months, he was feeling depressed and homesick and went to see a medical provider, according to the lawsuit he filed. A couple months later, he went to HPD to fill out forms to register his firearms.

To Question 11 on the superseded form, “Have you been diagnosed as having a behavioral, emotional, or mental disorder(s)?” Santucci answered “yes” and added “not serious.”

HPD then took his guns away and handed him a new form requiring written certification from a psychiatrist, doctor or psychologist saying he’s no longer “adversely affected.”

HPD halted his application. Santucci sued.

When the judge issued the preliminary injunction in November, Santucci got his guns back. Then HPD added more specific fields to its questionnaire. Now the injunction is permanent, banning the old forms for good.

Beck, who pressed the case, says the new ruling only sets in stone the preliminary injunction issued in November.

“The preliminary injunction did all the heavy lifting,” Beck said. “We exposed that, hey, we’ve got a law here that simply doesn’t make sense.”

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