Hawaii's new gun laws could lead to lawsuits, group says

The bill is on Gov. Josh Green's desk after receiving approval from lawmakers last week.

Published: May 8, 2023 11:00pm

(The Center Square) -

A firearms bill passed by Hawaii lawmakers will make filing lawsuits on many of the state’s gun laws easier, a Second Amendment advocate told The Center Square.

If Senate Bill 1230 becomes law, it would be illegal to carry firearms in what the bill deems “sensitive places,” including government buildings, hospitals, restaurants and bars that serve alcohol, stadiums, movie theaters, concert halls, schools and colleges. The bill is on Gov. Josh Green's desk after receiving approval from lawmakers last week.

The bill also bans carrying guns at permitted public gatherings or demonstrations for which a permit. Carrying a firearm on a sidewalk adjacent to such a gathering would also be illegal.

“SB 1230 and its companion bills are a knee-jerk reaction to last year's Supreme Court ruling in NYSRPA Vs. Bruen,” Hawaii Firearms Coalition Director Andrew Namiki Roberts told The Center Square. “As made clear by the legislators in this year's session, they wanted to pass a bill that was as extreme as they thought they could get away with to subvert the rights of Hawaii's law-abiding firearms owners.”

The bill would also install stricter requirements for obtaining a concealed carry license and adjust related regulatory fees.

“There are many provisions in the bill that serve no purpose other than to make it harder for people to obtain firearms,” Roberts said. “The biggest concern should be with how obviously unconstitutional much of the bill is. For example, the requirement that someone be a resident of Hawaii to apply for a concealed carry license. This is a clear violation of the Second and Fourteenth Amendments, making it so that visitors and serving military members lose their right to bear arms upon entry to the state.”

He pointed out how other states that have passed “sensitive places” restrictions are already facing court challenges.

New Jersey lawmakers passed similar laws after the Bruen ruling. U.S. District Court Judge Renée 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."

Roberts predicted the bill would face many legal challenges.

“The changes that they are making will make it easier to file lawsuits on many of Hawaii's gun laws, and the consequence of that is that a majority of them will likely go away over the next few years,” Roberts said.

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