In 2018 Andrew Namiki Roberts sued the Honolulu, Hawaii police chief and the state’s Attorney General over the ban on stun guns and tasers. Roberts was represented by attorneys Alan Beck and Stephen Stamboulieh. Hawaii’s long standing prohibition on the possession of electronic weapons fails to meet constitutional muster in light of the Caetano v. Massachusetts decision, a similar case that the Supreme Court remanded back to the Massachusetts Supreme court. From the prayer for relief:
An order preliminarily and permanently enjoining Defendants, their officers, agents, servants, employees, and all persons in active concert or participation with them who receive actual notice of the injunction, from enforcing HI Rev Stat § 134-16 to ban the acquisition, possession, carrying or use of Tasers and other electronic arms;
2. An order declaring that HI Rev Stat § 134-16 is unconstitutional and violates the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution;
The lawsuit bore fruit and yielded the introduction of HB891 A BILL FOR AN ACT RELATING TO ELECTRIC GUNS. The bill text beat a bit around the bush:
The legislature finds that the United States Supreme Court decision in Caetano v. Massachusetts, 136 S. Ct. 1027 (2016), which overruled a decision of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, has raised questions regarding the constitutionality of bans on electric guns, and may make amendments to Hawaii’s law on electric guns advisable.
The purpose of this Act is to protect the health and safety of the public by regulating the sale and use of electric guns and repeal the existing prohibition on electric guns.
“…raised questions regarding the constitutionality of bans on electric guns, and may make amendments…” An interesting way to phrase “We’re going into this kicking and screaming” by using mitigated speech that maybe, sorta, kinda, has to do with our law being potentially unconstitutional. Yeah. The bill text is not completely perfect but closer to it than complete prohibition. The bill’s intent was probably to stave off a complete smackdown of their statutes and act as a move to moot the Roberts case.
Earlier this week the Hawaii Firearms Collation announced through a facebook post that HB891 became law without the signature of the Governor, neither ratifying it nor vetoing it. From their announcement:
In 2018, Hawaii Firearms Coalition filed a lawsuit against the State of Hawaii(1), alleging that it’s ban on the private possession and carrying of tasers in the state was unconstitutional.
Today, HB891 passed into law. HB891(2), written by the Attorney General’s office, makes tasers and other electric weapons legal in the state.
The Governor did not sign the law but did not veto it either. This means the bill becomes law without his signature. This was expected. It was clear throughout the session that due to HIFICO’s lawsuit, the legislators were being forced to pass the bill.
Originally, legislators wanted to treat electric arms just like firearms, with background checks and waiting periods. However, the counties (who can barely keep up with firearms checks), showed concerns. Thus, the bill was modified to require a background check and a mandatory safety class conducted by the seller. Sellers will be required to take a state-authorized class and keep records of all sales.
The law also puts some restrictions on use:
“It shall be unlawful for any person to knowingly or recklessly use an electric gun for any purpose except:
(2) Defense of another person; or
(3) Protection of property of the person or of another person.”
Another restriction in the bill is a lengthy list of people who are prohibited from owning electric weapons, including: felons, fugitives, people guilty of a crime of violence, or the sale of an illegal drug.
The law goes into effect on January 1st, 2022. The current ban on possession is still in effect until that time. Therefore, don’t go rushing out to buy one just yet.
Hawaii Firearms Coalition will continue forward with its lawsuit to the best of its ability. We will make sure that we can carry these arms for self-defense as well as owning them.
Attorney Alan Beck in his own post said of the bill becoming law:
I got a step closer to legalizing Tasers and stun guns nationally today. In response to a lawsuit I filed. Hawaii passed a bill to legalize them today. The legislature passed it a couple months back and today the Governor let the law go into effect. For more information, look at the text below the image. So far we went to NY, NJ, several cities in Maryland, New Orleans, Tacoma, Philly and Hawaii to get them legalized. A few other places have had their bans lifted by other lawyers. Last place left is Rhode Island and I am waiting for a decision there. However, this lawsuit has not concluded. We still have some issues that needed to be sorted out before it concludes.
I did also reach out to Beck about this news and this was what he had to say:
I am glad that the State of Hawaii has repealed its ban on stun guns and Tasers in response to our lawsuit. Post-Heller, complete bans on electric arms are plainly unconstitutional..Hawaiians, as well as all Americans, have a right to choose a less lethal option to defend themselves.
The strict prohibition on stun guns, tasers, or any electronic weapons is a matter that should have been put fully to bed in 2008, 2010, and 2016. The first section of Caetano makes this clear:
The Court has held that “the Second Amendment extends, prima facie, to all instruments that constitute bearable arms, even those that were not in existence at the time of the founding,” District of Columbia v. Heller, 554 U. S. 570, 582 (2008), and that this “Second Amendment right is fully applicable to the States,” McDonald v. Chicago, 561 U. S. 742, 750 (2010). In this case, the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts upheld a Massachusetts law prohibiting the possession of stun guns after examining “whether a stun gun is the type of weapon contemplated by Congress in 1789 as being protected by the Second Amendment.” 470 Mass. 774, 777, 26 N. E. 3d 688, 691 (2015).
The passage of this law is a big leap for Second Amendment rights. The Beck-Stamboulieh team has been a wrecking ball to unconstitutional provisions in law and slowly they’re bringing it all down from bottom to top. It’s going to be hard to argue that electronic weapons, which are constitutionally protected, yet unimagined by our founders are perfectly legal to keep, bear, and carry, while conventional firearms are still heavily regulated in certain jurisdictions. Yes the subtleties of these taser/stun gun cases are still being hashed out, but the case law is piling up and all of it’s going to be weighed when the Supreme Court of the United States hears the NYSRPA carry challenge this fall.