Hawaii’s highest court rules Second Amendment rights do not extend to citizens in state

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Hawaii’s highest court on Wednesday ruled that Second Amendment rights as interpreted by the U.S. Supreme Court do not extend to Hawaii citizens, citing the “spirit of Aloha.”

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In the ruling, which was penned by Hawaii Supreme Court Justice Todd Eddins, the court determined that states “retain the authority to require” individuals to hold proper permits before carrying firearms in public. The decision also concluded that the Hawaii Constitution broadly “does not afford a right to carry firearms in public places for self defense,” further pointing to the “spirit of Aloha” and even quoting HBO’s TV drama “The Wire.”

“Article I, section 17 of the Hawaii Constitution mirrors the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution,” the Hawaii Supreme Court decision states. “We read those words differently than the current United States Supreme Court. We hold that in Hawaii there is no state constitutional right to carry a firearm in public.”

“The spirit of Aloha clashes with a federally-mandated lifestyle that lets citizens walk around with deadly weapons during day-to-day activities,” it adds. “The history of the Hawaiian Islands does not include a society where armed people move about the community to possibly combat the deadly aims of others.”


Hawaii Gov. Josh Green after his State of the State address

Democratic Hawaii Gov. Josh Green speaks to reporters at the state Capitol in Honolulu on Jan. 22. (AP Photo/Audrey McAvoy)

The court’s opinion further says the state government’s policies curbing certain gun-carry rights have “preserved peace and tranquility in Hawaii.”

“A free-wheeling right to carry guns in public degrades other constitutional rights,” it concludes. “The right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, encompasses a right to freely and safely move in peace and tranquility.”


In addition, the Hawaii Supreme Court notes a quote from HBO’s “The Wire,” that “the thing about the old days, they the old days.” The court’s opinion states that it “makes no sense” for contemporary society to pledge allegiance to “the founding era’s culture, realities, laws, and understanding of the Constitution.”

The case dates to December 2017, when Hawaii citizen Christopher Wilson was arrested and charged with improperly holding a firearm and ammunition in West Maui. The firearm Wilson was arrested carrying was unregistered in Hawaii, and he never obtained or applied for a permit to own the gun. He told police officers that the firearm was purchased in 2013 in Florida.

concealed carry handgun man

The Hawaii Supreme Court ruled that “conventional interpretive modalities and Hawaii’s historical tradition of firearm regulation rule out an individual right to keep and bear arms under the Hawaii Constitution.” (iStock)

Wilson argued in court that the charges brought against him violated the Second Amendment. But, according to The Reload, the Hawaii high court explicitly rejected the U.S. Supreme Court’s interpretation of the Second Amendment in 2008’s District of Columbia v. Heller and 2022’s New York State Rifle and Pistol Association v. Bruen, which both held that there is a constitutionally protected right to carry firearms.


“This is a landmark decision that affirms the constitutionality of crucial gun-safety legislation,” Democratic Hawaii Attorney General Anne Lopez said Wednesday. “Gun violence is a serious problem, and commonsense tools like licensing and registration have an important role to play in addressing that problem.”

“More broadly, Justice Eddins’ thoughtful and scholarly opinion for the court provides an important reminder about the crucial role that state courts play in our federal system,” Lopez added. “We congratulate our friends and partners at the Department of the Prosecuting Attorney for the County of Maui for their work on this important case.”

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