HONOLULU (AP) – Megan Kau makes occasional week-long hunting trips to the Hawaiian island of Lanai, where she enjoys watching the sunrise and hearing the distant rustle of deer and mouflon in the tropical wilderness, with a gun on. her side.
As a gun owner, she also goes to shooting ranges several times a year. Those trips are the only times the attorney and Oahu resident sees others with guns in this tourist mecca where strict laws make it harder to buy firearms and restrict the carrying of loaded weapons in public.
Thursday US Supreme Court ruling overturning New York’s hidden weapons law will likely also change things in Hawaii, where it is now highly unusual to see people carrying loaded guns in public.
Some say the change will lead to more gun violence in a state that traditionally sees very little. Hawaii had the country’s lowest rate of gun deaths in 2020, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“We accept culturally, we accept racially,” Kau said. “But in our culture we are fighters. We have passion.”
That passion can culminate in physical altercations that are usually done “up and down” — local slang for fistfights.
“If you were born and raised here, you get a fistfight, you don’t expect there to be a weapon,” Kau said.
Chris Marvin, a Hawaii resident with the gun control group Everytown for Gun Safety, said road rage, surf spot collisions and other confrontations are part of life in Hawaii and are rarely fatal. He fears that will change.
“When you introduce weapons, it often kills you,” he said. “Guns and aloha don’t mix.”
Under current law, county police chiefs in Hawaii are free to determine whether to issue a carrying license. Without such a permit, people in Hawaii are only allowed to keep firearms in their homes and transport them—unloaded and locked up—to shooting ranges, hunting grounds, and other restricted locations such as for repairs.
According to the Supreme Court ruling, local governments cannot require license applicants to carry a weapon in public to demonstrate a particular need, such as a direct threat to their safety. Hawaii and California are among the states with such a requirement.
Hawaii’s police chiefs have issued just four carry permits in the past 22 years, said attorney Alan Beck, who represents George Young, a Big Island man who has been charged with being allowed to carry a gun in self-defense.
“It’s a huge deal,” Beck said of the ruling. “Not only does it mean that Mr. Young’s case will prevail, it also means that the door has been opened to challenge many aspects of Hawaii’s firearms law.”
State officials were determining what effect the court ruling could have on Hawaii?Governor David Ige said. However, some believe they know the final outcome.
“The bottom line is that Hawaii is about to become a more dangerous place,” Senator Karl Rhoads said. “Hawaii is going from a place where the right to wear in public is an exception to a place where not having the right to wear in the street is an exception.”
The Supreme Court ruling allows local governments to impose certain rules that limit who can carry permits and where guns can be banned, such as parks, stadiums and other places where people gather.
Hawaii lawmakers will look into adding additional background research, training provisions and legal ways to keep guns out of certain public areas, Senator Chris Lee said.
There are already weapons-handling training requirements for obtaining a firearm, “but carrying something in a public place is a completely different matter,” Lee said, so he would like to see mandatory training on conflict de-escalation and improved law enforcement training in situations where people are armed.
He would also like to see restrictions on bringing guns to public gatherings on emotionally charged topics.
Denise Eby Konan, dean of the College of Social Sciences at the University of Hawaii at Manoa and a member of the state’s Gun Violence and Violent Crimes Commission, said guns in public places such as beaches and hiking trails can undermine Hawaii’s reputation as a safe tourist destination. may affect destination.
“I think many of our visitors come from countries where gun laws are quite strict,” she said.
At least one couple who visited Waikiki on Thursday said eased restrictions wouldn’t stop them from returning.
Rebecca Donahue said she and her husband hid the carrying licenses where they live in Titusville, Florida. “I think Hawaii is very laid back and relaxed from what we’ve seen,” she said.
The Hawaii Tourism Authority declined to comment on the court’s ruling and any implications for tourism, the economic engine that powers the state’s economy.
Kainoa Kaku, president of the Hawaii Rifle Association, said the decision will allow law-abiding people to carry guns — “guys like me who put a lot of time and effort into training and improving my craft so that I can defend myself and defend my skills.” family and even my community in general if need be.”
Joseph Robello, who uses a gun and rifle to hunt pigs, said he doesn’t expect Hawaii to turn into the Wild West.
“Most people don’t just wear it to wear, to wear it on your hip and walk around the store saying, ‘I have a gun and I can use it,'” he said. “That’s stupid. Ridiculous.”
Freelance journalist Marco Garcia contributed to this report.