Hawaii’s Supreme Court has ignored recent Supreme Court precedent in a recent case, and upheld state laws that prohibit carrying an unlicensed 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,’ Justice Todd Eddins wrote in a unanimous 5-0 decision.
In Wednesday’s ruling, the court said it disagreed with the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent rulings interpreting the right to bear arms under the Second Amendment, which is also repeated almost verbatim in Article 1, Section 17 of Hawaii’s state constitution.
‘We read those words differently than the current United States Supreme Court,’ Eddins wrote. ‘We hold that in Hawaii there is no state constitutional right to carry a firearm in public.’
Rather, the court contended, the right was ‘militia-centric.’
Hawaii’s Supreme Court upheld state laws that generally prohibit carrying an unlicensed firearm in public, straying from precedent set by the U.S. Supreme Court
Michael Wilson (left) and Todd W. Eddins (right) were among the justices who stated the Second Amendment ‘clashes with the spirit of Aloha
The court also reversed a lower circuit court’s dismissal of two charges filed against Paia man Christopher Wilson, 47, after he was arrested for criminal trespass while carrying an unregistered pistol.
The case against Wilson dates back to December 2017, when Flyin Hawaiian Zipline owner Duane Ting spotted men on his fenced-in property and called Maui police.
When officers arrived, Wilson said he had a weapon in his front waistband. Police lifted his shirt and found a Phoenix Arms .22 LR caliber pistol, loaded with ten rounds of .22 caliber ammunition.
Wilson said he legally purchased the gun in Florida in 2013. A records check showed that the pistol was unregistered in Hawaii, and Wilson had not obtained or applied for a permit to own a handgun.
The County of Maui Department of the Prosecuting Attorney charged Wilson with four counts. Two of the counts, improper storage of a firearm and improper storage of ammunition, fall under Hawaii’s ‘place to keep’ laws.
The Paia man was also charged with violating permits to acquire ownership of a firearm and first degree criminal trespass.
Wilson filed to dismiss the charges twice. On the second attempt, following the 2022 ruling of New York State Rifle & Pistol Ass’n, Inc. v. Bruen, he successfully appealed and the place to keep charges were dismissed in circuit court.
Wilson claimed the place to keep laws subverted his constitutional right to protect himself in public by carrying a lethal weapon.
The justices declared there is ‘no state constitutional right to carry a firearm in public’
The ruling was a unanimous 5-0 decision. Pictured: Judges Lisa M. Ginoza (left) and Sabrina Shizue McKenna (right)
However, the State appealed the dismissal in addition to challenging Wilson’s standing, arguing that Wilson did not bother to apply for a carry license and satisfy Hawaii’s license to carry law.
Therefore, they argued, Wilson could not claim that his right to bear arms was impeded.
The case went to the Supreme Court, where the justices affirmed Wilson’s right to challenge the constitutionality of the place to keep laws.
‘A criminal defendant has standing to level a constitutional attack against the charged crime,’ Eddins wrote.
However, he contended, Wilson lacked the standing to challenge Hawaii’s licenses to carry law, as the State did not charge him with violating it and Wilson made no attempt to obtain a carry license.
‘Conventional interpretive modalities and Hawaiʻi’s historical tradition of firearm regulation rule out an individual right to keep and bear arms under the Hawaiʻi Constitution,’ Eddins wrote in the 5-0 decision.
‘In Hawaii, there is no state constitutional right to carry a firearm in public.’
Moreover, he added: ‘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.
The court also reversed a lower circuit court’s dismissal of two charges filed against Paia man Christopher Wilson, 47, after he was arrested for criminal trespass while carrying an unregistered pistol
‘The government’s interest in reducing firearms violence through reasonable weapons regulations has preserved peace and tranquility in Hawaiʻi. A free-wheeling right to carry guns in public degrades other constitutional rights.’
Laws regulating firearms in public advanced the rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, Eddins wrote.
He also criticized Bruen, writing: ‘Time-traveling to 1791 or 1868 to collar how a state regulates lethal weapons – per the Constitution’s democratic design – is a dangerous way to look at the federal constitution.’
The Hawaii Supreme Court is made up of three appointed Democratic governors and two Republican-appointed justices.