Hawaii governor signs bills to reduce risk of gun violence

Jun. 3—The governor said the new laws passed in May by the Legislature will make Hawaii safer and hopefully improve the Aloha State's ranking from second lowest among states for gun violence to the lowest.

On National Gun Violence Awareness Day on Friday, Gov. Josh Green signed two bills into law aimed at reducing risks of gun violence in Hawaii.

Green signed one bill establishing statewide regulations over carrying concealed firearms, and one bill directing the state Department of Education to work with three employee unions to develop and implement a program in all public schools to train for active shooter situations.

The governor said the new laws passed in May by the Legislature will make Hawaii safer and hopefully improve the Aloha State's ranking from second lowest among states for gun violence to the lowest.

"This is a public health crisis in our country, " he said.

Green signed Senate Bill 1230, relating to firearms, and House Bill 1329, relating to school shooter defense, Friday in a ceremonial room in his office at the state Capitol between two children who were among government officials, gun violence prevention advocates and other guests. Many in attendance were wearing orange clothing or orange lei recognizing a national Wear Orange campaign to honor victims and survivors of gun violence.

Chris Marvin, a Hawaii representative of Everytown for Gun Safety, praised the two bills during the ceremony as a product of hard work and said the state's new concealed-carry law is one of the best in the nation.

This law, parts of which take effect either July 1 or Jan. 1, creates statewide standards for where someone with a permit to carry a concealed firearm cannot legally do so, and allows individual counties to have stricter rules.

Such "sensitive places " under the new law include schools, government buildings, public transportation, organized public assemblies, bars and restaurants serving alcohol, parks, beaches, sports facilities, movie theaters, hospitals, college campuses and other areas. Restricted places also include all private property unless the property owner gives authorization.

SB 1230 also prohibits carrying a firearm if a permit holder is consuming or under the influence of alcohol or a controlled substance, prohibits leaving an unsecured firearm in a vehicle unattended and requires that a licensed carrier with a firearm possess the license.

Rep. David Tarnas, chair of the Senate Judiciary and Hawaiian Affairs Committee, said during the ceremony that the Legislature was prompted to pursue this legislation given a 2022 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that effectively nullified strong limitations for issuing permits to carry concealed guns in public, including limitations previously used in Hawaii.

"This changed everything, " said Tarnas (D, Hawi-Waimea-Waikoloa ). "Hawaii had to take action in order to establish a concealed-carry weapon license system, and that's what we've done through Senate Bill 1230."

Andrew Namiki Roberts, director of the Hawaii Firearms Coalition, told The Associated Press that Hawaii lawmakers wanted the law to be a "workaround " of the high court's decision in New York State Rifle and Pistol Association v. Bruen. He said the new law effectively makes it so people can't carry firearms in public for self-defense and is a "gross infringement " on the Second Amendment.

"It limits carrying a firearm to public sidewalks and private businesses—if you can get permission. All other places in the state, it's going to be illegal to carry a firearm, " he said.

Kainoa Kaku, president of the Hawaii Rifle Association, said it showed the state's leaders viewed "law-abiding, gun-owning citizenry of Hawaii as criminals."

Both gun rights groups plan to challenge the new law in court.

Attorney General Anne Lopez said her office was prepared to fight such lawsuits.

Kaku also objected to the anticipated expenses of the new law, estimating it will cost gun owners $1, 000 to take all the classes and proficiency tests required to obtain a concealed carry permit that will be valid for only four years.

The law relating to school shooter defense directs DOE to work with the Hawaii State Teachers Association, the Hawaii Government Employees Association and the United Public Workers union to develop and implement an active shooter training program in all public schools, including charter schools.

HB 1329 states that in 2022 there were 51 school shootings nationwide resulting in deaths or injuries, and noted that DOE requires annual fire drills while no student has perished in a school fire since 1958.

Sen. Michelle Kidani, chair of the Senate Education Committee, said during the ceremony that child safety is the utmost priority and will be enhanced through the legislation.

"By implementing an active shooter training program, we aim to enhance preparedness and minimize the potential risk associated with such emergencies, " said Kidani (D, Mililani Town-Waipio Gentry-Royal Kunia ).

The new law, which took effect Friday but has no deadline for creating and implementing the required program, allows students to decline participation in such a program.

"We don't want the kids to be traumatized if their parents didn't think it'd be a good idea to be involved in this, " Tarnas said.------The Associated Press contributed to this report.