The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in July that Hawai’i’s law to carry firearms is unconstitutional. The State and Hawai’i County have petitioned the Court to reconsider. In the first of two reports, HPR’s Wayne Yoshioka was granted an exclusive interview with the plaintiff in the case.
George Kaluawailehua Young, Jr., grew up in Hilo, played football in high school and joined the Army soon after graduation. He retired from the Army and moved back to Hilo.
“Was in 1997, I think. I was putting up pictures of the NRA and Charlton Heston in my office and my daughter says, ‘You can’t carry a gun in Hawai’i. I said, ‘Aw, that’s stupid, you know. You can always carry a gun.’ She says, ‘No, you can’t!’ So, I told her,’Okay, I’ll prove it to you.”
He applied for firearms licenses 3 times with the Hawai’i County Police Department, all disapproved, with no recourse or opportunity to appeal. The Police Department also had a pistol qualification.
“They want you to shoot 25 yards and put all your rounds in about a half-a-dollar size. You cannot do it. Not at 25 yards. And, everybody failed. So, they didn’t want anybody to pass.”
He sued the County and State in federal district court on the basis of violation of his 2nd amendment rights. He never received a summons, never appeared before a judge, but rulings were issued in support of the State and County.
“That started it. I said, the Constitution of the United States doesn’t allow anyone – I don’t care who you are – to say, you can’t carry a gun.”
He filed an appeal in 2004, which was taken up by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Attorney Alan Beck, based in San Diego, took Young’s case and won. He spoke to HPR via telephone.
“In a 2-to-1 decision, the 9th Circuit ruled that self-defense is a core right protected by the 2nd Amendment, either inside or outside the home.”
The State Attorney General and Hawai’i County petitioned the 9th Circuit last year for a reconsideration and vote by the full Appeals Court. That action is pending, but Young says, he will not give up his constitutional right.
“My right is, I can carry a gun openly. That don’t mean I gotta carry every day. You know, that’s stupid, it’s ridiculous. But, I have a right to use a weapon in self-defense.”
But even more than that, Young, who’s 70 years old, would like to see it through for the person who was there at the start.
“It will probably go to the Supreme Court and, we’ll win at the Supreme Court. I wish for my daughter if she was here. She died at 21. When I win, put it in my daughter’s name.”
In my next report, Hawai’i legislators weigh in. Wayne Yoshioka, HPR News.