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Hawaii appeals decision to allow guns in public

  • SPECIAL TO THE STAR-ADVERTISER / 2018

    George Young, Jr., of Hilo, stands in front of his Hilo residence. Young sued the state in 2012 after Hawaii county’s police chief twice rejected Young’s application for a license to carry a firearm.

  • STAR-ADVERTISER STAFF / 2017

    Lt. Gov. Doug Chin said in a statement today that the state’s “firearms laws keep our communities safe. To promote public safety, we must defend our state laws.”

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The state and Hawaii County filed a petition today asking the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals to reconsider a three-judge panel’s ruling that Hawaii’s legal requirement for getting a license to carry a firearm in public violates the U.S. Constitution’s Second Amendment right to bear arms for self-defense.

The three-judge panel of the court handed down a 2-1 opinion in July in the case of a Hilo man’s lawsuit against the state and the Hawaii Police Department. George K. Young Jr. sued in 2012 after then-Hawaii Police Chief Harry Kubojiri twice rejected his application for a license to carry a firearm.

State firearm laws prohibit carrying a firearm in public except to transport it to and from places where it can be purchased and used legally, such as from a gun shop to your home or to the police department for registration. The firearm must be unloaded and in an enclosed container.

The chief of police of each county is responsible for handling firearm registrations and issuing firearm licenses. The law allows for the chief, in exceptional cases, to grant a license to carry a loaded revolver or pistol to an applicant who shows reason to fear injury to himself or his property.

The 2-1 opinion said the exceptional case requirement impinges on the right of a responsible, law-abiding citizen to carry a firearm openly for self-defense outside of his home.

According to the state and county’s joint petition, the panel’s ruling is based on a fundamental misunderstanding of Hawaii law. The panel, it says, invalidated Hawaii’s law on the ground that it limits open-carry license to security guards and other people whose jobs require protecting life and property.

“But that is just wrong,” the filing says. The law makes open-carry license available to any qualified individual who “sufficiently indicates” an “urgency” or “need” to carry a firearm and who is “engaged in the protection of life and property.”

Hawaii Attorney General Russell Suzuki has issued an opinion that clarifies that the law extends to private individuals as well as security officers and that it advises the police chiefs that victims of domestic violence, anyone who faces a credible threat of armed robbery or violent crime may be eligible for open-carry licenses.

But attorneys for Young said today that the reality is that the state rarely issues any open-carry licenses — only four in the last 18 years.

“The bottom line is that the state doesn’t issue permits,” attorney Alan Beck said.

Hawaii Lt. Gov. Doug Chin issued a statement today regarding the attorney general’s opinion:

“The Attorney General opinion provides excellent guidance to county police chiefs charged with issuing firearms licenses under Hawaii’s gun laws,” Chin said. “This opinion validates what many Hawaii residents believe, and that is that our firearms laws keep our communities safe. To promote public safety, we must defend our state laws.”

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