Ruling should prevent further erosion of gun rights in Hawaii
Ten days ago the U.S. Supreme Court released its landmark Second Amendment decision on District of Columbia v Heller, the Washington, D.C., gun ban case. Hawaii gun laws, among the strictest in the nation, are now subject to scrutiny relative to that decision. Will it have an effect here? Attorney General Mark Bennett has announced he will review Hawaii's gun laws.
The D.C. ban on handguns and requirement that long guns in the home be disassembled or have trigger locks were ruled unconstitutional. The protection of the right to have guns in the home, available for self- protection, was upheld, as an individual right, not just a protection for the organized militia.
According to the decision, the right to firearms is not absolute, and laws against concealed carry, possession of firearms by felons or the mentally ill, prohibitions on carrying "dangerous or unusual weapons" and licensing requirements are not struck down. D.C.'s ban on "an entire class of 'arms' that Americans overwhelmingly choose for the lawful purpose of self-defense" was found unconstitutional.
The debate about what constitutes "dangerous and unusual" is left open.
The decision should make it harder for gun-control advocates in Hawaii to get enough support to pass de facto gun bans and impossibly strict storage laws like the overturned D.C. statutes. Bennett will hopefully look hard at Hawaii's present ban on standard factory magazines for ordinary handguns commonly kept in the home for self-defense.
The decision opens the way immediately for a number of lawsuits across the nation. The Second Amendment Foundation's suit against Chicago, where handguns are banned, was filed 15 minutes after the courts opened following publication of the Supreme Court decision.
Likewise, the National Rifle Association, et. al., have filed against the city of San Francisco. If the Hawaii Rifle Association and many others had not worked with several state legislators, such as Rep. Joe Souki of Maui and former Windward Oahu Rep. Terrance Tom, to defeat a 1994 statewide ban on handguns, proposed by Gov. John Waihee and pushed by the state Senate and county police and prosecutors, we would have grounds, too.
Washington, D.C., Chicago, San Francisco and other municipalities most likely will drag their feet in recognizing their responsibilities under the decision, delaying restoration of Second Amendment protection to their residents.
Of course, there are dire predictions about the consequences of the decision from anti-gun organizations and some law enforcement agencies. But a dramatic reduction in violent crime rates in D.C., as is anticipated by gun-rights proponents following restoration of the means of self-protection to their residents, should answer all reasonable critics.
The Supreme Court decision is a significant victory for all who prize their basic rights and liberty.
Maxwell Cooper is the legislative co-chairman of the Hawaii Rifle Association.