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Bill establishing 13 gun-free sensitive places in Honolulu awaits Blangiardi's signature

AP Photo/Keith Srakocic

The bill that would restrict areas where concealed-carry weapons are allowed on Oʻahu is heading to Mayor Rick Blangardi’s desk.

Bill 57 establishes sensitive places on the island. The 13 broadly-defined places include most city-owned areas, schools and child care facilities, public parks, public transportation, businesses serving alcohol, and within 100 feet of most public gatherings.

The bill also lets businesses choose if they will allow guns on their property with proper signage.

"Hawaiʻi historically has had low rates of gun violence, and we need to keep it that way,” Councilmember Tyler Dos Santos-Tam said in a release. “Over the course of five hearings, we listened to the public and identified what we as a community would consider to be 'sensitive places,' like schools and hospitals."

"We also worked to make clear rules that the licensees could follow. Bill 57 is a step toward keeping our island home safe from the violence and tragedies we see on the mainland," Dos Santos-Tam said.

Blangardi submitted the bill to the Honolulu City Council last year, following the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling in New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen, which reformed stricter existing gun legislation.

"We believe it'll be most protective of the community that we all serve," Honolulu Deputy Managing Director Krishna Jayaram said Wednesday.

The bill also has the support of the Honolulu Police Department, Maj. Eric Yosemori said, but there may be some issues with enforcement since the state Legislature is also working on statewide rules.

"There's some parts of this bill that we do have some that have certain concerns as far as what we can enforce or even as far as like the two bills that's going on in the state," Yosemori said.

HPD has so far approved 55 concealed carry licenses, Yosemori reported.

The City Council passed the measure in a 6-3 vote, with councilmembers Andria Tupola, Val Okimoto and Augie Tulba in opposition.

"I do not believe the bill as a whole is constitutional, and therefore I cannot support it," Tulba said. "In order for us to enact sensitive places legislation must demonstrate that the law being enacted is consistent with our nation's historical tradition."

One opponent to the bill, Andrew Namiki Roberts with the Hawaiʻi Firearms Coalition attended Wednesday's hearing to testify against the bill for the fifth time.

"I came to the chambers today carrying an empty rifle case, it's impossible to see what's inside," Roberts said, describing his experience at Honolulu Hale. "But the police department assumed I was carrying a firearm and they stopped me."

Roberts said a search of the empty case would have been a violation of his rights, and that Bill 57 would lead to lawsuits.

"I can carry a firearm on my person, anywhere that I go and be free of searches," Roberts said. "Criminals are not going to have licenses. They're not going to follow these laws."

If signed, the measure would take effect in May.

Senate Bill 1230, which crossed over to the House of Representatives this month, tackles statewide sensitive places issues and would make it a crime to carry a firearm in such an area.

“While the Legislature is at its halfway mark in session, we cannot wait for them to act," Council Chair Tommy Waters said. "There is no certainty that any state bills will pass, and even if one does, the counties are still able to legislate to protect their residents."

Waters pointed to HPD's currently 800 concealed carry backlog as a 'paramount' reason for the bill.

"This is an issue of public safety, and I appreciate the hard work this body has demonstrated to fulfill our kuleana and uphold the safety and well-being of our residents," he said.

A similar sensitive places bill has been enacted on Hawaiʻi Island.

Sabrina Bodon is Hawaiʻi Public Radio's government reporter. Contact her at sbodon@hawaiipublicradio.org or 808-792-8252.
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