LIHUE >> Kauai had the fewest applications for firearms of all state counties in 2014.
But the number of applications on the Garden Isle increased for the fourth straight year — although county officials aren’t attributing that increase to a gun craze, but rather something that accompanies an uptick in population.
"The increases are slight year to year," county spokeswoman Sarah Blane wrote, noting that among the population growth, the county has experienced an increase in the number of imported registrations — individuals with registered firearms who moved to Kauai — while the island itself has added sporting retail options. "Sports Authority, which opened May 2014, sells both handguns and long guns."
According to the state Attorney General’s firearm registration report, which was released recently, there were 1,741 applications processed by the Kauai Police Department last year. That was slightly up from the year before, when there were 1,713 applications in 2013.
Officials approved 1,563 of the permits, registering 3,807 firearms. That also outpaced 2013, when 3,651 firearms were registered.
While it was the lowest of all the state counties, Kauai processed 80 percent more applications than officials had anticipated for the year.
While reasons for requesting an application aren’t required, sport seems to be the main draw.
"It appears that hunting is by far the No. 1 reason," Blane said, adding that other reasons provided also include collecting and personal protection.
But Jim Rosa, president of Rosa’s Arms in Kapaa, said he wonders if strict gun laws in Hawaii are a deterrent for people who want to become gun owners. He said Mainland firearms dealers label Hawaii as "a communist state" when it comes to the right to carry a gun for protection.
"What this means is that only the bad guys carry guns, with the exception of a very few active law enforcement officers, and that is a very sad situation for those of us in Hawaii," he said.
Long arms accounted for 28,620, or 59.2 percent of firearms registered statewide in 2014. Rifles and shotguns comprised 22,548, or 46.7 percent, and 6,072, or 12.6 percent of total registrations. The remaining 19,704, or 40.8 percent, of firearms registered were handguns.
After applicants submit the proper documents for a long arm to the Kauai Police Department, there is a 14-day waiting period. KPD will conduct criminal and mental health clearance checks. Multiple long guns can be registered under one long gun permit, and permits are valid for all long guns purchases for one year.
The handgun application process is the same as for a long gun, but the owner must also complete a Hunter Safety Course and bring in proof of completion.
First-time applicants are charged a one-time fee of $14.75 to cover the finger-printing process.
On Kauai, 25 applications were denied outright.
A thorough background check is an important part of the process, Blane said.
"These laws are in place to prevent someone who should not or cannot own or possess a firearm from acquiring one," she said.
The population of Kauai increased by roughly 2,000 people from 2012 to 2013, when an estimated 69,512 people lived on-island.
As of the 2000 U.S. Census, Kauai had 58,463 residents. Meanwhile, the number of permits processed annually in Kauai County from 2000 through 2014 jumped 360.5 percent, and the number of firearms registered surged 376.6 percent.
"Population growth is a factor," Blane said.
Statewide, there were 19,365 personal and private firearm permit applications processed in 2014, with 18,296, or 94.5 percent, approved and a record low of 148, or 0.8 percent, denied. There were 11,075 applications on Oahu, followed by 4,463 in Hawaii County and another 2,086 in Maui.