Court Rules Hawaii’s Ban on Carrying Firearms in Public Is Unconstitutional
Hawaii’s claim that the right to bear firearms is limited to guns kept at home has been ruled unconstitutional. The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals on Tuesday overruled in a two to one decision a lower court verdict by federal District Judge Helen Gillmor. Gillmor had upheld Hawaii’s gun restrictions which said the right to carry arms was limited to firearms that must be kept at home.
The Appeals court declared that Hawaii’s laws were unconstitutional because “the right to bear arms must guarantee some right to self-defense in public.”
Several candidates applied for permits to openly carry firearms in Hawaii but were denied on the basis that in Hawaii guns could only be used for self-protection at homes.
Vietnam veteran George K. Young Jr. brought forth the lawsuit because he was twice denied a permit to carry handguns by the local police chief. The chief had denied the permit because of Young’s intention to carry the handgun publicly.
“I was very happy,” said Young in response to the appeals court ruling. “The Constitution says the right to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed and yet the state law intervenes.”
The lone dissenting judge in the appeals court ruling, Judge Richard Clifton, argued that states have the discretion to make their own rights about public safety and that restrictions on openly carrying firearms have a long and established history in the U.S.
Hawaii County Deputy Corporation Counsel Kaena Horowitz admitted to the 9th Circuit panel that his county, and possibly other counties in the state, had issued open carry permits to professional security guards but never to private individuals. Alan Beck, Young’s attorney, said that the admission made their argument much easier.
Horowitz, who is against issuing open carry gun permits, said his county will appeal the ruling of the 9th Circuit panel. According to him, “carrying firearms in public clearly poses a significant danger to the safety of our community and greatly increases the risk that police officers have to confront.”
Gun advocates were also hoping the ruling would allow the carrying of concealed firearms.
“The open carry – while we’re delighted about it – but open carry everybody can see who has a gun and who doesn’t. So in this case, if we only had open carry then anyone without a gun on their hip is going to be a crime target,” said Harvey Gerwig, president of the Hawaii Rifle Association.