An issue that comes up over and over again among some in the Second Amendment community is the matter of disqualifiers. As a society, with our laws, with our behavior, we’re never going to please everyone. It’s just not going to happen. The “shall not be infringed crowd” will argue that anyone no matter what the circumstances, are deserving to their right to keep and bear arms. Then there are those of us who have accepted reasonable regulation, or at least what might be considered reasonable, such as violent murderers that have been freed from prison not being able to own firearms. There is the argument that if someone is no longer in jail, why should they have any disqualifiers if they’ve paid their debt to society? Regardless of what our feelings and thoughts are on these things, we do have laws that we need to deal and comport with. If you’re from the Aloha state, that might be easier said than done. Especially when they arbitrarily move the goal post.
On August 4, 2021 a new lawsuit called Roa, et al v. City and County of Honolulu was filed. The suit deals with exactly what is being discussed, disqualifiers and staying within the boundaries of the law. The two plaintiffs, Peter Roa and Randall Chatman, in unrelated circumstances were both arrested for disorderly conduct. According to the complaint filed, we can learn a lot from the Statement of Law:
(3) Disorderly conduct is a petty misdemeanor if it is the defendant’s intention to cause substantial harm or serious inconvenience, or if the defendant persists in disorderly conduct after reasonable warning or request to desist. Otherwise disorderly conduct is a violation.
An offense defined by this Code or by any other statute of this State constitutes a violation if it is so designated in this Code or in the law defining the offense or if no other sentence than a fine, or fine and forfeiture or other civil penalty, is authorized upon conviction or if it is defined by a statute other than this Code which provides that the offense shall not constitute a crime. A violation does not constitute a crime, and conviction of a violation shall not give rise to any civil disability based on conviction of a criminal offense.
This case is much broader than whatever alleged transgressions Roa and Chatman may have committed. This is about at what point does the state have the power to restrict people’s constitutionally protected rights. Looking over the statute on what may or may not be considered disorderly conduct, most persons at one point in their life may have been guilty of such a violation. “Makes unreasonable noise” is one of the qualifiers of disorderly conduct. Never mind “Subjects another person to offensively coarse behavior or abusive language which is likely to provoke a violent response”, something people can witness on a daily commute on the Garden State Parkway.
The crux of this can be pulled directly from the motion for preliminary injunction:
Plaintiffs are both Honolulu residents, who the City and County of Honolulu (“City”), through an independent policy or its application of State law, will not allow to own firearms due to violations of disorderly conduct. They face deprivation of their constitutional rights and are entitled to an immediate injunction to enjoin the Defendant from its unconstitutional conduct.
For whatever reason, the city of Honolulu decided to distort the state law to fit their own anti-gun agenda. Count I of the complaint explains this:
Hawaii state law does not support criminalizing the possession of firearms by Plaintiffs because neither of their disorderly conduct convictions are for crimes of violence. Thus, categorically criminalizing the possession of firearms by those convicted of H.R.S. § 711-1101(1)(a) is an independent City policy. Defendants’ policy of criminalizing the possession of firearms by Plaintiffs violates their Second Amendment rights. Alternatively, if the City may properly criminalize the ownership, possession and acquisition of firearms based on a conviction for a violation of HRS § 711-1101(1)(a) pursuant to H.R.S. §134-7, then H.R.S. §134-7 is unconstitutional as applied to Plaintiffs.
I had a chance to catch up with attorney Allen Beck, one of the lawyers representing Roa and Chatman and this is what he had to say about the case:
The City and County of Honolulu’s policy deprives citizens’ of firearm rights for what is legally not a crime in Hawaii. This policy is effectively the equivalent to banning possession due to a speeding ticket. That is flagrantly unconstitutional.
Looking at the statutes involved, histories of the plaintiffs, Hawaii’s proven anti-freedom track record, and facts of the case, the situation does look like Honolulu is exerting some clout to usurp people’s ability to own and possess firearms. There has to be a line that cannot be crossed. For some, that line has already been crossed long ago. For others, we’re approaching the line. Who may and may not own arms is a subject of debate even within the gun owning community. Something that we all have to agree on is if there is standard set, we can’t have cities arbitrarily changing them to their own liking.