Denby Fawcett: With So Much Rage In Everyday Life Do We Want People Armed In Public? - Honolulu Civil Beat

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About the Author

Denby Fawcett

Denby Fawcett is a longtime Hawaii television and newspaper journalist, who grew up in Honolulu. Her book, Secrets of Diamond Head: A History and Trail Guide is available on Amazon. Opinions are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Civil Beat’s views.

There about 2 million privately owned firearms in the state.

You have to wonder how it ever came to this. Hawaii once had one of the most protective gun safety laws in the country.

But no longer. The U.S. Supreme Courtʻs Bruen decision has made it easier for gun owners everywhere in the United States to carry firearms in public. 

The high courtʻs conservative 6-3 majority decision in June 2022 ruled unconstitutional a New York state law that required registered gun owners to show cause before granting them a license to carry a gun outside the home.

That also invalidated similar gun safety laws in Hawaii and four other states.

It is a helpless feeling to know “Guns Allowed” signs could be appearing soon on certain private places in the islands where a property owner has no problem with a patron packing a loaded, 15-round Glock-19.

“To be clear: the U.S. Supreme Court forced the State of Hawaii to generally permit individuals to carry weapons in public,” said David Day in an email to Honolulu Civil Beat. Day is special assistant to the attorney general.

Before the SCOTUS decision, Hawaii’s strict gun law made it almost impossible to carry a handgun in public. In fact, in 22 years, authorities statewide issued only four concealed-carry licenses.

So how worried should the public be now that more individuals will be routinely issued licenses to carry loaded pistols and revolvers in places where they eat and shop?  

It’s hard to say at this early stage. For me, what is most worrisome is Hawaii’s strict gun safety restrictions have been weakened when the country is suffering an epidemic of gun violence.

HPD Police dept main station firearms gun registration area.
HPD has approved 156 concealed carry licenses since the change to guns laws. (Cory Lum/Civil Beat/2015)

Following the court decision, county police departments have imposed many requirements for gun owners to get a license to carry in public such as a four-hour concealed-carry training course, a written test and new high fees including a $150 payment every four-years for each firearm they plan to carry outside.

Honolulu Police Department spokeswoman Michelle Yu says since January when HPD began to issue concealed-carry licenses, 901 individuals have applied for the licenses for 1,284 firearms with some applicants requesting licenses for more than one firearm.

She says so far, 156 concealed carry licenses have been approved.

This is a very small percentage of the 754,329 firearms registered in Hawaii from 2000 to 2021. The Attorney Generalʻs Office estimates from reports in the 1990s the true number of privately owned firearms in the islands to be at least 1 million and probably closer to 2 million today.

As a safety response to the Bruen decision, Hawaii lawmakers this month approved Bill 1230 to prohibit the concealed carrying of loaded handguns in almost every place in the state where people gather.

The so called “sensitive places” in the bill awaiting the governor’s signature include all schools from preschools through universities, churches, government buildings, hospitals, libraries, courts, polling places, public transportation, beaches, parks, public golf courses, tennis courts and swimming pools, homeless shelters and any place that serves alcohol.

About the only non-sensitive places now where handguns can be carried are in cars, public streets, public sidewalks and on private property with the consent of an owner, manager, operator or lessee of the property.

Applicants for a permit on Oahu must complete a four-hour training session and exam and pass a shooting test.
(Marina Riker/Civil Beat/2022)

“The Legislature has in effect imposed a de facto ban on residents carrying guns in public places in Hawaii,“ Andrew Namiki Roberts said in a phone call Sunday.

Roberts is director of the Hawaii Firearms Coalition whose members fought against the Legislature’s successful passage of the bill. 

Roberts says national gun rights groups are already suing in other states in response to restrictions the states are trying to impose on where in public people can take their guns. He says Hawaii Firearms Coalition is poised to jump in with its own lawsuit in Hawaii depending on what the national groups decide to do here. 

“We will proudly defend SB 1230 in court if and when a legal challenge is brought.”

David Day, special assistant to the attorney general.

The Attorney General’s Office says it is prepared for such lawsuits and expects to prevail.

“We will proudly defend SB 1230 — which intends to mitigate the bad effects of the Supreme Court’s decision — in court if and when a legal challenge is brought because we are fighting in the name of public safety, for reasonable gun-control laws, and for maintaining the welcoming culture that the people of this State grew up in and deserve,” Day said in an emailed statement to Honolulu Civil Beat.

In response to the Bruen decision, the City and County of Honolulu has its own new law, Ordinance 23-6 also known as Bill 57 to outline sensitive places where handguns are prohibited and require signage on properties that will allow guns.

If a private place welcomes people with handguns, the city ordinance says that choice must be made known to the public with a sign that says “Guns Allowed.” The state bill also requires that the public be informed if pistols and revolvers are allowed in an public establishment either with a sign or written or verbal consent to an individual gun owner who is inquiring.

 I can’t imagine anyone except for a concealed carry gun owner wanting to go into a place that says “Guns Allowed.” Not me for sure.

Honolulu Mayor Rick Blangiardi’s office says since May 1 when it began to offer “Guns Allowed” and “Guns Not Allowed” signs to download for free on its website, 1,673 have viewed the site. 

Private premises can get copies of city signs indicating guns are not permitted or permitted from the city.
(Provided: City and County of Honolulu)

“We can’t track how many people have downloaded the individual posters from that site, just how many people have visited the site,” said the mayor’s spokesman Ian Scheuring.

The city also has made available 1,700 hard copies of the signs at City Hall and all the satellite city halls except for downtown Honolulu.

There is no requirement for any establishment to show a sign if it prohibits guns on its premises but private establishments can get the “No Guns Allowed” signs from the city if they want them.

Gun rights advocate Roberts says even if people plan to allow guns in their establishments, they are unlikely to post “Guns Allowed” signs out of concern they will be harassed by anti-gun activists not just here but on the mainland who will use social media and phone banks to heckle them.

What I have always found difficult to understand is why pro-gun people feel so threatened.  

“The world is unpredictable,” Roberts says. “If a crime happens, a gun offers a way for me to defend myself and my family when we don’t have the estimated 7 minutes it takes for the police in Honolulu to show up to help us and it often takes longer in rural locations.”

He says a gun in the hands of a law-abiding citizen can stop a criminal’s intention from escalating into a tragedy.

Law abiding gun owners who dutifully get licenses to carry in public will not be the ones causing trouble, he says.

Senate Judiciary Chairman Karl Rhoads thinks the opposite is true.

“If fewer guns are around people are generally safer. I have never felt threatened in a way that I thought a gun would improve my safety,” he said, referring to working and living in his downtown Honolulu district that includes some of the most crime-ridden areas in the state.

Past research has shown that people rarely use guns to kill criminals or to stop crimes. The weapons instead are more likely used to harm themselves or others rather than provide protection.

Despite gun owners’ claims that we will be safer with citizens allowed to carry guns in public, I remain concerned about the need for ordinary citizens to be armed to the teeth out in in public when there is so much frustration and anger in everyday life that can spark emotional rage.  

I hope the new state and city efforts to severely limit where people can carry loaded weapons will help to stave off violent encounters.

Hawaii and Massachusetts have the lowest number of gun deaths per capita.

I hope it stays that way.

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About the Author

Denby Fawcett

Denby Fawcett is a longtime Hawaii television and newspaper journalist, who grew up in Honolulu. Her book, Secrets of Diamond Head: A History and Trail Guide is available on Amazon. Opinions are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Civil Beat’s views.

Latest Comments (0)

What if a person felt no 'threat' however they simply wanted to engage in one of their inalienable rights?

ClaudeRains · 6 months ago

· 6 months ago

I’ve been married for 40 years and consider myself an educated rational person,; but over the years my husband and I have had passionate arguments and I’m glad there was not a firearm in the home because even the most rational person can become impulsive and irrational quickly. My question to all the gun advocates is this,; do you truly feel that unsafe in your daily life in Hawaii to carry a firearm?

Swimmerjean · 6 months ago

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