HONOLULU– Hawaii Governor Josh Green signed legislation on Friday that will allow more people to carry concealed firearms, but at the same time ban people from taking guns to a wide range of places, including beaches, hospitals, stadiums, bars that serve alcohol and cinemas. Private businesses authorizing firearms will be required to post a sign to that effect.
The legal overhaul comes in response to a U.S. Supreme Court ruling last year that expanded gun rights by saying Americans have the right to carry guns in public for self-defense. .
New York and New Jersey passed similar laws last year that quickly addressed legal challenges that are making their way through federal courts.
Green, a trained physician and emergency physician in Hawaii for decades, said gun violence is a public health crisis and action must be taken to address it.
“Many times during my training on the continent, I was one of the doctors who treated people who were victims of armed violence. Not only that, I lost a loved one to suicide with a gun,” Green said before signing the measure. “And so anything we can do, we should.”
Rep. David Tarnas, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, said lawmakers carefully crafted the measure to be consistent with the High Court’s interpretation of the Second Amendment’s right to bear arms and also establish that which he called a “fair system” for regulating concealed carry permits. .
“We aim to create a balanced approach that respects the rights of gun owners and the need to maintain a safe and protected space in Hawaii,” Tarnas said.
Hawaii has long had some of the strictest gun laws in the country.
Prior to the Supreme Court’s decision, Hawaiian law gave county police chiefs discretion in determining whether to issue gun owners with a carry license. Police chiefs rarely did. They have issued only six such permits in 21 years, making it virtually impossible for civilians to carry guns in Hawaii. Otherwise, state law only allowed people to keep firearms in their homes and transport them—unloaded and locked up—to shooting ranges, hunting areas, and other limited places like repair shops.
In 2022, Hawaii had the second-lowest gun death rate among the 50 states, according to data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Only Massachusetts had a lower figure.
Andrew Namiki Roberts, director of the Hawaii Firearms Coalition, said Hawaiian lawmakers wanted the law to be a “circumvention” of the High Court’s decision in New York State Rifle and Pistol Association v. Brun. He said the new law ensures that people cannot carry guns in public for self-defense and is a “serious violation” of the Second Amendment.
“It limits the carrying of a firearm to public sidewalks and private businesses – if you can get permission. In all other places in the state, it will be illegal to carry a firearm,” he said.
Kainoa Kaku, president of the Hawaii Rifle Association, said it showed state leaders view “law-abiding, gun-owning Hawaii citizens as criminals.”
“They’re so stupid they can’t tell the difference between someone who breaks the law and commits crimes with guns and someone who just wants to protect themselves and their family with a gun. fire,” he said.
The two gun rights groups plan to challenge the new law in court.
Attorney General Anne Lopez said her office is ready to fight those lawsuits.
Kaku also objected to the new law’s upfront spending, saying it will cost gun owners $1,000 to complete all the classes and skill tests required to obtain a concealed carry license that will only be valid for four years.
The governor also signed another bill requiring the state Department of Education to develop a training program to help public and charter schools respond to school shootings.