U.S.A. — Hawaii has been one of the states with the most severe infringements on Second Amendment rights. Hawaii became a territory of the United States in 1900. Hawaii became a state in 1959. Hawaii, therefore, has no history of American laws which apply to the test established by the Supreme Court Bruen decision. History after 1900 is not allowed, and Hawaii has no history as an American territory before 1900. This did not stop the government of Hawaii from claiming Hawaii’s history as a kingdom should be used as a precedent for Hawaii’s extremely restrictive gun control laws. The Supreme Court disagreed. In response, the Hawaii government passed a very restrictive carry law. Carry outside of the home, either openly or concealed, requires a permit. The law used the responses of New York and New Jersey as guides and created so many designated “sensitive places” it is nearly impossible for a permit holder to carry a concealed firearm in public legally.
The Hawaii Firearms Coalition responded with a lawsuit. From courtlistener.com:
Plaintiff Hawaii Firearms Coalition (HIFICO) is a member driven organization incorporated under the laws of the State of Hawaii with its principal place of business in Honolulu, Hawaii, Hawaii Firearms Coalition promotes legislative and legal action, as well as research, publishing, and advocacy, in support of people’s civil liberties.
The case is found as Wolford v Lopez. In the complaint, the plaintiffs explain how the Bruen decision does not allow Hawaii to effectively neuter the right to carry arms in public by labeling most public and private spaces. From the complaint:
The Bruen Court struck down as unconstitutional New York’s “proper cause” requirement for issuance of a permit to carry a handgun in public. In doing so, Bruen explicitly rejected New York’s attempt to justify its restriction as analogous to a historical “sensitive place” regulation. 142 S.Ct. Case 1:23-cv-00265-JAO-WRP Document 1 Filed 06/23/23 Page 7 of 71 Page ID.7 at 2133-34. The Court explained that a state may not simply ban guns wherever people may “congregate” or assemble. A rule that “expand[ed] the category of ‘sensitive places’ simply to all places of public congregation that are not isolated from law enforcement defines the category of ‘sensitive places’ far too broadly.” 142 S.Ct. at 2134. As the Court explained, “[p]ut simply, there is no historical basis for New York to effectively declare the island of Manhattan a ‘sensitive place’ simply because it is crowded and protected generally by the New York City Police Department.” Id; 18. If a state seeks to restrict firearms in a particular location as a “sensitive place,” then it must prove that its current restriction is sufficiently analogous to “well-established and representative historical analogue.” In Bruen, the Court identified only five such locations that may have a historical basis: “schools and government buildings” as well as “legislative assemblies, polling places, and courthouses.” Id. At 2133, citing District of Columbia v. Heller, 554 U.S. 570, 626 (2008). Bruen held that the lower “courts can use analogies to those historical regulations of ‘sensitive places’ to determine that modern regulations prohibiting the carry of firearms in new and analogous sensitive places are constitutionally permissible.” Id;
The Hawaiian government created fifteen categories of places it labeled as sensitive. These include nearby land and parking lots which make carrying a concealed firearm in public essentially impossible. Here are the fifteen categories, as shown in the text. The fifteen categories are found on pages 15 – 19 of the complaint:
(1) Any building or office owned, leased, or used by the State or a county, and adjacent grounds and parking areas, including any portion of a building or office used for court proceedings, legislative business, contested case hearings, agency rulemaking, or other activities of state or county government;
(2) Any public or private hospital, mental health facility, nursing home, clinic, medical office, urgent care facility, or other place at which medical or health services are customarily provided, including adjacent parking areas;
(3) Any adult or juvenile detention or correctional facility, prison, or jail, including adjacent parking areas;
(4) Any bar or restaurant serving alcohol or intoxicating liquor as defined in section 281-1 for consumption on the premises, including adjacent parking areas;
(5) Any stadium, movie theater, or concert hall, or any place at which a professional collegiate, high school, amateur, or student sporting event is being held, including adjacent parking areas;
(6) All public library property, including buildings, facilities, meeting rooms, spaces used for community programming, adjacent grounds, and parking areas;
(7) The campus or premises of any public or private community college, college, or university, and adjacent parking areas, including buildings, classrooms, laboratories, research facilities, artistic venues, and athletic fields or venues;
(8) The campus or premises or any public school, charter school, private school, preschool, summer camp, or child care facility as defined in section 346-151, including adjacent parking areas, but not including: (A)A private residence at which education is provided for children who are all related to one another by blood, marriage, or adoption; or (B)A dwelling when not used as a child care facility;
(9) Any beach, playground, park, or adjacent parking area, including any state park, state monument, county park, tennis court, golf course, swimming pool, or other recreation area or facility under control, maintenance, and management of the State or a county, but not including an authorized target range or shooting complex;
(10) Any shelter, residential, or programmatic facility or adjacent parking area operated by a government entity or charitable organization serving unhoused persons, victims of domestic violence, or children, including children involved in the juvenile justice system;
(11) Any voter service center as defined in section 11-1 or other polling place, including adjacent parking areas;
(12) The premises of any bank or financial institution as defined in section 211D-1, including adjacent parking areas;
(13) Any place, facility, or vehicle used for public transportation or public transit, and adjacent parking areas, including buses, paratransit vans, bus shelters and terminals (but not including bus stops located on public sidewalks), trains, rail stations, and airports;
(14) Any amusement park, aquarium, carnival, circus, fair, museum, water park, or zoo, including adjacent parking areas;
(15) Any public gathering, public assembly, or special event conducted on property open to the public, including any demonstration, march, rally, vigil, protest, picketing, or other public assembly, for which a permit is obtained from the federal government, the State, or a county, and the sidewalk or street immediately adjacent to the public gathering, public assembly, or special event; provided that there are signs clearly and conspicuously posted at visible places along the perimeter of the public gathering, public assembly or special event”;
In addition, all private property is dictated by the government as banned for the carry of arms unless the property owner or manager gives explicit permission to carry on the property.
This use of the “sensitive places” label as a proxy to deny the right to carry arms in public is being contested in New York and New Jersey. The cases are making their way through the courts. The current justices on the Supreme Court are unlikely to look kindly on this sort of twisting of the Bruen decision. Hawaii is in the ninth circuit, which has been hostile to affirming rights protected by the Second Amendment. If the District judge rules against the State of Hawaii, which seems likely, expect the case to be appealed to the Ninth Circuit.
About Dean Weingarten:
Dean Weingarten has been a peace officer, a military officer, was on the University of Wisconsin Pistol Team for four years, and was first certified to teach firearms safety in 1973. He taught the Arizona concealed carry course for fifteen years until the goal of Constitutional Carry was attained. He has degrees in meteorology and mining engineering, and retired from the Department of Defense after a 30 year career in Army Research, Development, Testing, and Evaluation.