Hawaii lawmakers considering sweeping gun control bill

New Jersey and New York lawmakers have passed similar laws.

Updated: March 20, 2023 - 11:00pm

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The Hawaii Legislature is considering a bill that would ban firearms in "sensitive" areas and require gun owners to receive permission from property owners to carry a gun on private premises.

The "sensitive" areas identified in House Bill 984 include hospitals, schools, anywhere children gather, places that sell alcohol, amusement parks, banks public parks and homeless and domestic violence shelters.

House Bill 984 requires gun owners to register their firearms every four years for a fee of $150 per gun.

The bill passed the House of Representatives earlier this month and passed the Senate Public Safety and Intergovernmental and Military Affairs Committee on Friday.

The state Attorney General's Office said the bill is in reaction to the New York State Rifle and Pistol Association v. Bruen ruling issued by the U.S. Supreme Court last year.

"The Supreme Court’s Bruen decision represents a very significant and disruptive change for our State,' said Attorney General Anne Lopez in testimony. "In the wake of Bruen, many more people are applying for licenses to carry a firearm. Under Bruen, those licenses shall be granted unless there is an objective statutory basis requiring denial. This will result in a significant increase in the presence of firearms in public, with more individuals carrying concealed weapons in Hawaii than ever before in our State’s history. This presents serious challenges for public health and safety."

New Jersey and New York lawmakers have passed similar laws after the Bruen ruling. U.S. District Court Judge Renee Marie Bumb issued a restraining order in January banning New Jersey from enacting the "sensitive areas" portion of the law.

"The state may regulate conduct squarely protected by the Second Amendment only if supported by a historical tradition of firearm regulation," Bumb said in the 46-page ruling. "Here, defendants cannot demonstrate a history of firearm regulation to support these challenged provisions."

Bumb held a hearing on Friday but did not make a decision, according to the New Jersey Monitor.

Hawaii could see similar lawsuits if the bill passes, opponents said.

"We issue a caution to Hawaii legislators that making changes to our current laws that impact the second amendment will open the state and counties to lawsuits," said Andrew Namiki Roberts, director of the Hawaii Firearms Coalition in written testimony. "These will challenge not only the changes but the state's current laws and policies. Government lawyers, when asked, are sure to claim to be able to defend the changes/laws, but history is not on their side. They have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars without a single success."