"Sensitive places" bill heads to Honolulu mayor as critics say lawsuits are coming

"Sensitive places" bill heads to Honolulu mayor as critics say lawsuits are coming
AP Photo/Martha Irvine

The 55 individuals who currently possess a valid concealed carry license in Honolulu (and the 800 others who are still waiting to be approved) could soon be barred from lawfully bearing arms in a wide variety of public settings after the city council approved a “sensitive places” law this week. Mayor Rick Blangardi proposed the ordinance in question, so there’s no doubt that he’ll put pen to paper as soon as possible, but Second Amendment activists are already warning that the new “gun-free zones” are going to lead to lawsuits.


Under Bill 57, concealed carry would be banned in 13 specific places, as well as on all private property by default, including:

  • city-owned or controlled buildings or properties (with limited exceptions)
  • schools, childcare facilities, and “places frequented by children,” including all public parks, museums, aquariums, and zoos.
  • public transportation
  • within 100 feet of where a government-permitted event is taking place
  • hospitals and other health care facilities
  • Any place used for performance, art, entertainment, gaming, or sporting events
  • restaurants and establishments that serve alcohol

Before the Honolulu City Council passed the bill on a 6-3 vote, they heard from some gun owners who did their best to warn them of the unintended consequences of their anti-gun actions.

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.”


I think the council is well aware of that, unfortunately. This is about restricting as much as possible where those legal gun owners who’ve managed to jump through every hoop and over every hurdle the city put between them and their carry license can now bear arms without fear of prosecution. The ordinance is written to trip up those concealed carry holders who might accidentally set foot with 100 feet of a permitted public gathering or otherwise makes an inadvertent foray into a gun-free zone by declaring the “presence of a person at any sensitive place is prima facie evidence that the person knows it is a sensitive place.” In other words, a violation doesn’t have to be willful to result in criminal charges.

While Roberts didn’t specifically say that the Hawaii Firearms Coalition was going to file suit against Bill 57 once the mayor signs the ordinance into law, there’s a slowly-growing number of Honolulu residents who are going to have standing to challenge the litany of “sensitive places” that it imposes. Of course, with Hawaii’s state legislature poised to pass its own sensitive places legislation, the pool of potential plaintiffs really stretches across the chain of islands. It may be that a challenge to the state law takes precedence over Honolulu’s ordinance given that the two are likely to be fairly similar in the places they deem off-limits to lawful carry, but one way or another the laundry list of sensitive places should get a court review as soon as there’s standing to sue.


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