We have a tiny bit of good news to report on today’s Bearing Arms’ Cam & Co: after months of delays and slow-walking the approvals of hundreds of concealed carry applicants, the Honolulu Police Department appears to have finally concluded that they can’t delay the inevitable any longer. Police Chief Arthur “Joe” Logan told the Honolulu Police Commission this week that the department has now approved slightly more than 400 carry permits since they began issuing carry licenses late last year, including 175 over the past two weeks.
Logan reports that the department still has more than 600 applications that have yet to be approved or denied, but he’s moved staff temporarily to help expedite the process and says he hopes to have the backlog cleared by the end of the month.
The bigger question is why is there a backlog to begin with? I understand that the HPD may have needed a few weeks to put a permitting system in place that didn’t uniformly deny every applicant, but it’s still been more than a year since the Bruen decision came down, and the department didn’t issue its first permit until late last December. Until just a couple of weeks ago the pace of approvals has been turtle-like, even though the department is dealing with a relatively small number of applicants.
I have a sneaking suspicion that the powers that be in the HPD knew they faced the possibility of a lawsuit if these delays continued, which is why we’ve seen a shift in resources and what appears to be a sincere, if belated, effort to process applications in a timely manner. Another possibility, however, is that the HPD decided to slow-walk the issuance of permits until Oahu and state lawmakers imposed a host of “sensitive places” where concealed carry is prohibited. Now that those “gun-free” zones are in place and permit holders can bear arms in just a few isolated areas of the city, the HPD considers it safe (or at least safer) to finally get around to issuing permits in a more timely manner.
Those “gun-free” zones are facing a court challenge of their own, however. The case, known as Wolford v. Lopez, was filed in federal court in Honolulu back in June, and last week U.S. District Judge Leslie Kobayashi (appointed to the bench by Barack Obama in 2010) heard oral arguments on a request for a temporary restraining order and injunction halting enforcement of several of those “sensitive places”, including parks and beaches and their parking lots, restaurants and their parking lots, banks and financial institutions (along with their parking lots), and the default ban on concealed carry in all private property unless signage is posted indicating that concealed carry is allowed.
As the lawsuit notes, under Hawaii’s “may issue” regime that resulted in a complete prohibition on concealed carry, there were no sensitive places defined in state statutes. After Bruen, however, not only did county officials create their own list of “gun-free zones”, but state legislators came up with a list of 15 “broad categories of sensitive places including adjacent land and parking lots that render carry concealed permits almost completely useless.” Violations of the law are considered misdemeanors, but can still be punished by up to one year in prison, even if the gun owner possessed a valid carry license at the time.
The State of Hawaii has not gotten the United States Supreme Court’s message from Bruen. Prior to Bruen, Hawaii had treated, for more than a century, the Second Amendment as dead, buried and forgotten having almost never issued any concealed carry permits. Once Bruen was decided and county police chiefs began to issue a trickle of concealed carry permits, under new county specific onerous carry concealed permit regulations, the state legislature acted to ensure that even if people managed to overcome the burdensome requirements to actually obtain a concealed carry permit, the permits would be rendered utterly useless.
Hawaii merely switched gears from almost never issuing any concealed carry permits so that there was no one with a permit, to making permits now begrudgingly issued to be so limited as to make it so that permit holders could not carry anywhere. Notwithstanding the United States Constitution and the Second Amendment and the Bruen decision, Hawaii just simply does not want anyone to be able to carry a firearm anywhere within the state- which is their fundamental, ancient, constitutionally protected and guaranteed right.
As the plaintiffs, argue, while Hawaiian lawmakers claim that these restrictions only represent “the legislature’s assessment of public sentiment and broadly shared preferences within the State,” in truth that sentiment “has its roots in a century of massive infringement and utter annihilation of the Second Amendment.”
The State of Hawaii has not changed its tune and its Chief law Enforcement officer still relies on a king’s prerogative to disarm his subjects. The Attorney General’s representative, in testimony regarding SB1230 stated, repeatedly, that Hawaii had a long history of more than a century, since 1852 when it was a kingdom, of eliminating Second Amendment rights. Following Bruen, counties in Hawaii promulgated severely restrictive concealed carry licensure regulations. With SB1230, the state legislature enacted a set of comprehensive, strict and severe concealed carry regulations, in Section 4, set to take effect on January 1, 2024.
Despite the onerous concealed carry regulations presently in place and soon to be in place, the legislature enacted further draconian restrictions, on those law abiding people, who will have undergone some form of licensure to carry concealed in the state, as to when and where they can exercise their Second Amendment rights. In fact, the sponsor of SB1230 has also even tried to repeal the Second Amendment.
Unless Judge Kobayashi grants gun owners the relief that they’re asking for, Hawaii is going to continue its massive infringements and render the right to bear arms utterly moot, even for those who’ve run the gauntlet of government bureaucracy and managed to obtain a concealed carry license. As I said, Honolulu’s speeding up the permitting process is a tiny step in the right direction, but we still have a long way to go before the Second Amendment rights of Hawaiians are recognized.. much less secure.