Today, on National Gun Violence Awareness Day, Hawaiʻi Gov. Josh Green signed laws that prohibit firearms at a variety of places — including hospitals, beaches, stadiums, movie theaters and bars that serve alcohol — and mandates active shooting training at all public and charter schools in the state.
A new law also said private businesses allowing guns will have to post signs notifying patrons they do.
“On many occasions in my training back on the mainland, I was one of the physicians that took care of individuals who were victims of gun violence, said Green, who also was an emergency room doctor on the Big Island. “Not only that, I lost a loved one to a suicide with a gun. And so anything that we can do, we should.”
Green signed Act 52 (SB1230), which addresses sensitive places where firearms are prohibited. The purpose is to create a statewide policy that will help to avoid confusion from county to county throughout the state.
In November 2022, Hawaiʻi County was first in the state and one of the first municipalities in the nation to pass legislation regulating where licensed firearms can be carried with a valid permit. The County Council passed the bill, which Mayor Mitch Roth signed. They did so as a stop-gap measure until the State of Hawaiʻi passed legislation, which would supersede the county law.
The new state law:
- Prohibits firearms in certain locations and premises
- Requires possession and disclosure of a license to carry
- Prohibits leaving an unsecured firearm in a vehicle unattended
- Prohibits consuming or being under the influence of alcohol, an intoxicating liquor, or a controlled substance when carrying a firearm
- Prohibits carrying or possessing firearms on certain private property without express authorization
- Requires annual reports from the department of the attorney general on carry licenses.
- Amends the requirements for, and revocation of, firearms permits and licenses.
- Amends the disqualification of persons from owning, possessing or controlling a firearm.
- Expands the qualified immunity for health care providers who provide information on firearms applicants to include physician assistants and advanced practice registered nurses.
SB 1230 was prepared in response to the U.S. Supreme Court’s Bruen decision, which required that law-abiding individuals generally be allowed to carry weapons in public as a matter of constitutional Second Amendment law. The new state law is intended to mitigate the harm arising from the Supreme Court decision, in accordance with the U.S. Constitution.
SB 1230 was opposed by the National Rifle Associationʻs Institute for Legislative Action, which said on its website before the bill was signed into law: “Senate Bill 1230 purports to make changes in response to the Bruen decision; however, it does little more than show Hawaii’s disdain for the Second Amendment and the ability for law-abiding citizens to protect themselves.
“This legislation massively expands ʻgun-free zonesʻ and creates a complicated patchwork of where people can lawfully carry. Further, it creates a permitting system with subjective factors that are ripe for abuse.”
Act 53 (HB1329) will provide active shooter training in public and charter schools statewide. The bill cited 51 school shootings had occurred in the United States in 2022.
“Nationally, school shooting incidences have also occurred on K-12 school property, on a school bus, while school was in session, and during a school-sponsored event. The second deadliest K-12 shooting in United States history occurred in the last year,” the bill said.
The new legislation requires the Department of Education to work with certain organizations to develop and implement an active shooter training program in all public and charter schools. It also allows public and charter school students to decline to participate in active shooter training.
“I never could have imagined a world in which our keiki would need to have active shooter training in school,” Green said. “But given the very real threat, I firmly believe in providing this potentially life-saving education for our public and charter school students, to help make sure they get to go home to their families.”
First Deputy Solicitor General Nick McLean of the Attorney General’s Office said: “This important legislation will help reduce the risks of gun violence in our communities by establishing reasonable safeguards. The law protects the public by putting in place common-sense training and education requirements, as well as protections for sensitive locations like schools, parks, and playgrounds.”
Big Island Rep. David A. Tarnas, House Judiciary and Hawaiian Affairs Chair, said: “SB1230 was carefully crafted to ensure that it is consistent with the Court’s interpretation of the Second Amendment, and allows for the establishment of a fair system of regulation for concealed carry.
“We aimed to create a balanced approach that respects the rights of gun owners and the need to maintain safe and protected spaces in Hawaiʻi. Additionally, HB1329 takes into consideration the importance of equipping our teachers and students with the critical knowledge and skills to respond to emergencies.”
Chris Marvin, who is on the Everytown for Gun Safety Veteran Advisory Council, said Hawai‘i is currently one of the safest states in the nation with the second lowest rate of gun violence.
“This is not due to chance,” he said. “We’re safer because of sound public policy; and we must do everything we can to keep it that way and to protect our ‘ohana and our people.”
Hawaii had the second-lowest gun death rate among the 50 states in 2022, according to data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Massachusetts had the lowest rate.
But gun violence is growing in Hawaiʻi. According to statistics from EveryStat:
- Recent nationwide data shows Hawai‘i had the greatest one-year increase in gun violence (43 percent) from 2020 to 2021.
- In an average year, 61 people die by guns in Hawai‘i. About 60 percent are suicides.
- The rate of gun deaths has increased 44% from 2012 to 2021 in Hawai‘i, compared to a 39% increase nationwide. This means that in 2021, there were 20 more gun deaths than in 2012.