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Gun bill seeks limits in ‘sensitive’ areas

LIHU‘E — A Kaua‘i gun control advocate and a gun store manager are speaking out with contrasting opinions on recent gun control legislation, as a bill aimed at restricting who can carry firearms, and where, continues to make its way through state Senate chambers.

Senate Bill 1230 was drafted in response to the U.S. Supreme Court’s June 2022 decision in New York State Rifle &Pistol Association v. Bruen, which declared New York’s concealed carry law unconstitutional.

The decision made Hawai‘i a shall-issue state, meaning it’s no longer able to deny applicants a concealed-carry permit if they meet state criteria for a permit.

Prior to the Supreme Court’s decision, the state rarely issued concealed-carry permits. Hawai‘i police chiefs issued only six carry permits in the 21 years prior to the Bruen decision, according to previous reports. In January and February of 2023, 52 permits were issued in Kaua‘i alone.

“For 120-plus years on the books you had to show cause to carry a concealed weapon. It wasn’t like you could just apply,” said Faith Harding, chapter lead of Kaua‘i’s Moms Demand Action and outspoken advocate of SB 1230. “Now, you don’t have to do that with the Bruen overturn … anybody can apply for a permit,” she said.

SB 1230 is aimed at addressing the increase in firearms after the Bruen decision to ensure that those who carry firearms are “reasonable and law-abiding.” The bill states it aims to improve public safety by prohibiting firearms in “sensitive locations” throughout the state, including schools, parks, restaurants, hospitals and government buildings.

But Jason Bryant, the managing member of JGB Arms on Kaua‘i, says the bill only adds to the already “convoluted” process for acquiring a gun in the state.

He detailed a weekslong application process necessary to qualify to own a firearm on Kaua‘i, including a criminal background authorization form, personal health authorization form, a state ID, proof of residency, and a cashier’s check made out to the Hawai‘i Criminal Data Center.

“The process is so onerous that it dissuades most people from wanting to go through it,” he said. “So if anybody is on the fence about (owning a gun), then more than likely, you’d be like, ‘I don’t want to.’”

Bryant said Hawai‘i is “the most restrictive state” for guns, and recent data confirm his statements.

According to Everytown Research &Policy’s 2023 data, Hawai‘i leads the country in gun sense laws, trailing just behind New York and California. It also has the lowest rate of gun-related deaths per year (3.4 per 100,000), according to 2020 data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Bryant also criticized the writing of the bill, calling it “erroneous.” He added that it’s several pages long and “doesn’t define anything that’s measurable or meaningful.”

“I am in support of firearms not being something that’s readily available at schools, or hospitals, or things of that nature,” he said. “But I don’t understand how that bill is in alignment with a law-abiding citizen’s right to self-defense.”

Harding countered that the bill is not “anti-second amendment” but is “pro-gun-sense laws,” and she’s worried about increased gun violence in Hawai‘i due to the Bruen decision.

“Look at what’s going on in the country,” she said, in reference to several recent school shootings. “We don’t want to see that happen here.”

Harding said she had a memorable experience last year, when Canadian tourists came up to her while she was working at an event.

“They said to me, ‘Do you know what we searched? Where was the place to go in the United States for vacations that had the least amount of gun violence?’ And it wasn’t just the state of Hawai‘i. It was the county of Kaua‘i,” she said.

“That was very profound to me.”

SB 1230 passed its second reading on March 24 and was scheduled to be heard by the House Committee on Finance on Wednesday, April 5.


Emma Grunwald, reporter, can be reached 808-245-0441 or
Source: The Garden Island

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