HONOLULU – Hawaii Gov. Josh Green signed legislation on Friday that would allow more people to carry concealed firearms but also ban people from taking guns to a variety of places including beaches, hospitals, stadiums, bars, in where alcohol is served and cinemas. Private companies that allow guns must display an appropriate sign.
The legal overhaul comes in response to a US Supreme Court ruling last year that expanded gun rights to include Americans’ right to carry firearms in public for self-defense.
New York and New Jersey passed similar laws last year that quickly addressed the legal challenges ending up in federal courts.
Green, who is a doctor by training and has worked in Hawaii’s emergency department for decades, said gun violence is a public health crisis and actions must be taken to address it.
“During my training on the mainland, I was often one of the doctors who cared for people who were victims of gun violence. In addition, I lost a loved one to suicide with a gun,” Green said before signing the measure. “And that’s why we should do everything we can do.”
Rep. David Tarnas, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, said lawmakers carefully crafted the measure to be consistent with the Supreme Court’s interpretation of the Second Amendment right to bear arms and what he called a “fair system” for gun control Establish regulation of covert gun permits.
“We want to create a balanced approach that respects the rights of gun owners and the need to maintain a safe and secure space in Hawaii,” Tarnas said.
Hawaii has long had some of the toughest gun laws in the country.
Prior to the Supreme Court ruling, Hawaiian law gave county police chiefs discretion over whether to issue gun-carry permits to gun owners. Police chiefs rarely did this. They only issued six such permits in 21 years, making it virtually impossible for civilians to carry guns in Hawaii. Otherwise, state law only allowed people to store firearms in their homes and transport them—unloaded and locked—to shooting ranges, hunting grounds, and other limited locations such as repair shops.
According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Hawaii had the second-lowest gun death rate among the 50 states in 2022. Only Massachusetts had a lower value.
Andrew Namiki Roberts, director of the Hawaii Firearms Coalition, said Hawaii lawmakers wanted the law to be a “workaround” for the Supreme Court’s decision in the New York State Rifle and Pistol Association v. Bruen case. He said the new law bans people from carrying firearms in public in self-defense and constitutes a “gross violation” of the Second Amendment, he said.
“It restricts carrying a firearm to public sidewalks and private businesses – as long as you can get permission. Carrying a firearm will be illegal everywhere else in the state,” he said.
Kainoa Kaku, president of the Hawaii Rifle Association, said it shows that state leaders “viewed law-abiding, gun-owning Hawaiians as criminals.”
“They are so stupid that they can’t tell the difference between someone who breaks the law and commits crimes with a gun and someone who just wants to protect themselves and their family with a gun,” he said.
Both gun rights groups plan to challenge the new law in court.
Attorney General Anne Lopez said her office stands ready to fight those lawsuits.
Kaku also objected to the expected cost of the new law, estimating that it will cost gun owners $1,000 to complete all the required courses and proficiency tests to obtain a concealed carry permit, which is only valid for four years.
The governor also signed another bill into law that would require the state Department of Education to develop a training program to assist public and charter schools in responding to school shootings.