When you think ‘gun control,’ the states that immediately come to most people’s minds are California, New York, New Jersey and a few other usual suspects. But Hawaii takes a back seat to no one in its zeal to keep its citizens disarmed (see, for example, the state’s virtual ban on carrying guns outside the home). But yesterday, a US District Court judge struck down two laws that are clearly intended to limit or outright discourage individuals from buying and owning firearms.
Hawaii is a may-issue state that requires a permit in order to purchase a firearm. The state-issued permits have a short shelf life, expiring in 10 days. The government claimed that allowing only ten days from issuance to purchase somehow “promotes public safety.” But in their response to the lawsuit challenging the law, they didn’t demonstrate how.
As Judge J. Michael Seabright wrote . . .
[T]he Government makes no effort to explain how this promotes public safety—that is, why the law is a reasonable fit to its asserted objective. In absence of an explanation, the court’s best guess as to the Government’s reasoning is that the law ensures that individuals do not make use of a permit to acquire after they become disqualified from owning a gun. But that this promotes public safety is not a common-sense conclusion. In fact, the opposite could be true. By shortening the permit use period to reduce the likelihood that disqualifying changes occur before the applicant obtains the handgun, the law arguably increases the likelihood that individuals will already be in possession of a gun should a disqualifying change occur.12 This outcome could negatively impact public safety by increasing the probability that unqualified individuals may be in possession of guns.
The second law that was challenged requires the buyer to then appear at their local police station to present the newly-purchased firearm for inspection and registration.
You read that correctly. When you manage to get the state’s permission to buy a gun in Hawaii, you have to take it to your local cop shop to register it and let them make sure the gun you bought matches the one on the permit. Well, you did.
Regarding that requirement, the judge wrote . . .
…the Government wholly fails to demonstrate how the in-person inspection and registration requirement furthers these interests. It merely states that “ensuring that the registration information is accurate, ensuring that the firearm complies with Hawaii law, and confirming the identity of the firearm can be easily accomplished simply by bringing the firearm to the registration for inspection.”
This bald statement is not enough to meet the Government’s burden. “To survive intermediate scrutiny, the defendants must show ‘reasonable inferences based on substantial evidence’ that the statutes are substantially related to the governmental interest.” Here, the Government has provided no evidence whatsoever in support of its position.
That’s a shame.
…it is again worth noting that Hawaii is the only state in the country to require in-person inspection and registration of firearms. As in the case of the 10-day permit use period, if it were truly a matter of common sense that in-person inspection and registration promoted public safety—or that misidentification in the absence of in-person inspection and registration was a problem—one would expect additional states to maintain similar requirements. The Government has failed to show that the in-person inspection and registration requirement is reasonably tailored to a significant, substantial, or important government interest. HRS § 134-3(c)’s in-person inspection and registration requirement does not survive intermediate scrutiny.
In the end, Judge Seabright, applying intermediate scrutiny, struck down both laws. He ruled that both the 10-day expiration and the in-person registration requirement are unconstitutional violations of the Second Amendment. You can read the judge’s full ruling here.