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Hawaiʻi has issued 1 concealed gun carry permit since US Supreme Court ruling

Supreme Courts Guns Hawaii gun store generic stock
Marco Garcia/AP
FR132414 AP
FILE - Handguns are on displayed at a gun shop, Thursday, June, 23, 2022 in Honolulu. (AP Photo/Marco Garcia)

In Hawaiʻi, it has traditionally been practically impossible to obtain police permission to carry a loaded gun in public. And so far that hasn't changed, even after a U.S. Supreme Court ruling making it easier to get such permits. Since the decision in June, only one permit has been granted.

The Honolulu Police Department, the state’s largest, hasn't even updated its process for people to seek a permit. It has 333 pending applications. Among them is one from Hawaiʻi Rifle Association President Kainoa Kaku.

Supreme Courts Guns Hawaii
Marco Garcia/AP
FR132414 AP
FILE - Kainoa Kaku, president of the Hawaii Rifle Association, aims his handgun after drawing it from a concealed carry position, Thursday, June 23, 2022, in Honolulu. (AP Photo/Marco Garcia)

Until now, “I never saw the point” in applying, Kaku said, because it would have been a waste of time and money because virtually no one ever was approved. He said he's extremely disappointed the department isn't moving more quickly to issue new rules.

“This Supreme Court decision is almost two months old in a couple of days, and we need to start seeing it," he said.

Hawaiʻi has among the nation's strictest gun laws and lowest rates of gun violence. County police chiefs have the discretion to determine whether to issue a carry permit.

Without such a license, people in Hawaiʻi are only allowed to keep firearms in the home and can transport them — unloaded and locked up — to shooting ranges, hunting areas and other limited locations such as for repairs.

The Supreme Court ruling says local governments can’t require those seeking a license to carry a gun in public to demonstrate a particular need, such as a direct threat to their safety.

Prior to the ruling, Hawaiʻi police chiefs issued only six carry permits in 21 years, according to state data.

And since the ruling, Maui County is the only place where a single permit application has been approved. Alana Pico, a spokesperson for the department, confirmed the approval of one application but the department didn’t immediately respond to a public records request seeking more information.

The Big Island’s police force is the only one other than Maui to have updated its permit rules since the high court decision. The Kauaʻi Police Department is still working on its regulations.

Revised rules for Maui and the Big Island include a requirement to submit shooting proficiency test scores.

Chris Marvin, a Hawaiʻi resident with Everytown for Gun Safety, said it’s good that application procedures for Maui and the Big Island haven’t changed radically, including seeking details on criminal and mental health histories.

“Even though gun owners will no longer have to prove an ‘exceptional case’ to receive a carry permit, we do still need to keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people, especially in public,” he said in an email.

Kaku said he'd like to see more specifics on what's required for a proficiency test and is concerned the permit would only be good for a year. He also thinks it doesn't make sense for a permit to be linked to a specific gun.

“If I decided I wanted to go for a jog, I don't want to necessarily carry my full-size firearm. I'd want to carry something smaller and lighter and that's more comfortable to carry," he said. “It's just a silly, arbitrary rule.”

Still, he's glad Maui police approved an application and is “going in the right direction” consistent with the Supreme Court ruling.

Marvin said it will be crucial for lawmakers to act on gun-safety legislation such as defining areas where guns wouldn't be allowed to be carried, including schools, bars and polling places.

Democratic state Sen. Karl Rhoads said it remains to be seen how much demand there will be for carry licenses in a state that doesn't have the kind of gun culture seen on the U.S. mainland.

“To carry a gun in public, that means you’re afraid of something," he said. “I wonder what it is that people are so afraid of. Because life in Hawaiʻi isn’t all that violent.”

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