When It Comes to Gun Rights – Hawaii is Conservative

handgun on table

By: Manu Kala

For more than three decades, California has banned certain types of semiautomatic rifles including the AR-15 under an “assault weapons” ban.  On Friday, June 4, 2021, a federal judge threw out the ban, ruling that it violates the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

“The Second Amendment is about America’s freedom: the freedom to protect oneself, family, home, and homeland,” Judge Roger Benitez wrote for the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California. “California’s assault weapon ban disrespects that freedom.”

This is not the first time Judge Benitez has weighed in on controversial gun laws. In 2019, he struck down a state law banning gun magazines that hold more than 10 bullets. “Individual liberty and freedom are not outmoded concepts,” Benitez wrote at the time.

It is highly likely that the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals will ultimately reverse Benitez’s ruling because no pro-Second Amendment has ever survived in the Ninth Circuit.  After that, legal observers say, it is possible the Supreme Court will step in to settle the matter. But that is far from certain. In 2016, the high court declined to hear a challenge to assault weapons bans in Connecticut and New York.

When it comes to the Right to Bear Arms, Hawaii is Conservative.  Hawaii is the only state with an assault weapons ban that fails to ban assault rifles and assault shotguns.  It is a political show law.  In some ways, Hawaii Democrats passed this law allegedly not to be outdone by the liberal California colleagues 32 years ago.  Hawaii’s law prohibits the sale or transfer of an assault rifle or assault shotgun, unless sold or transferred to an authorized individual.  Hawaii’s gun laws ban assault pistols and pistol magazines carrying more than 10 bullets.  Members of organizations are exempt from the pistol magazine limit at places of target shooting.

Acquiring a firearm in Hawaii requires a permit to acquire, issued to qualified applicants by the county police chief. There is a minimum 14- to 20-day waiting period for receiving a permit.  On July 24, 2018, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Hawaii’s laws restricting open carry are unconstitutional.  That ruling was vacated on February 8, 2019. 

If you want to buy a gun in Hawaii, you must be at least 21 years old, and you need a permit. To get a rifle like an AR, AK, shotgun, or hunting rifle — or any type of long gun — you need a permit, which is renewable once a year, and you can purchase as many rifles as you want during that period.  Both the House and Senate advanced bills last year to ban large capacity magazines for rifles in Hawaii, but those bills stalled.

Hawaiians fear gun violence slightly more than mainland Americans.  Ironically, gun violence in Hawaii is lower than on the mainland.  Hawaii gun sales doubled in 2020.  Gun sales in Hawaii have increased before other elections, but last year the surge was also because of the uncertain times created during the Covid 19 crisis.  Most of the customers buying guns said their concern is home defense and protecting their families.