By MERRILEE GASSER
THE CENTER SQUARE CONTRIBUTOR
(The Center Square) – Hawaii Gov. David Ige is hoping his latest gun law will see a different fortune in the courts than its predecessor.
Gov. Ige signed HB 2075, which requires gun owners to submit to a physical, in-person inspection of purchased firearms if they do not have a serial number, are brought to Hawaii from out of state, or are transferred between private individuals.
Last August, a court ruled in Yukutake v. Connors that required physical inspection of guns by law enforcement ran afoul of the Second Amendment right to bear firearms. It also shot down a ten-day expiration period for permits issued to acquire a gun.
The bill states the legislature recognized the ruling in Yukutake v. Connors invalidated its ten-day expiration period for permits to acquire firearms and suspended enforcement of physical gun inspection. However, it wrote:
“While the State’s appeal is pending, the law related to the ten-day permit expiration period continues to be in effect as the court stayed its holding, whereas the physical inspection requirement was not stayed and thus its enforcement is suspended.”
The bill said that the legislature “cannot allow for all firearms to be registered without inspection,” despite the court’s ruling that the physical inspection requirement was unconstitutional.
“Even if the Yukutake ruling is upheld, Hawai’i’s important interest in protecting public safety justifies the physical inspection of certain narrow categories of firearms at the time of registration,” the bill said.
Hawaii is the only state in the country to require in-person inspection and registration of firearms, according to the court ruling. Judge Michael Seabright, who ruled in the Yukutake v. Connors case, wrote the Government of Hawaii brought no concrete evidence to support its position that the requirement was reasonable in the interest of public safety.
“The Government wholly fails to demonstrate how the in-person inspection and registration requirement furthers these interests,” the judge wrote. “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.”
The text for HB 2075 uses the same arguments the judge rejected in his ruling.
It states, “the historical tradition of requiring in-person inspection of firearms provides a robust historical basis for Hawai’i’s law. Just as militia officers would inspect (and frequently record) members’ personal weapons to ensure that they comported with militia weaponry requirements.”
The judge said the purpose and scope of the colonial-era militia laws were too dissimilar to the State of Hawaii’s requirements.
“The purpose of the militia laws was to ensure that the armed forces maintained weapon stockpiles suitable for the nation’s defense and warfare needs,” the judge wrote.
He added that the colonial-era laws in question only applied to enlisted people in the militia and that there were no laws historically requiring in-person inspection and registration of firearms held by civilians.
Hawaii had the lowest death rate attributed to gun violence in 2020, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Gov. Ige’s office said Hawaii has less than 50 deaths attributed to gun violence per year.
“In the wake of the tragic mass shootings in Uvalde Texas, Tulsa Oklahoma and in so many other cities across the U.S., and a week after a shooting injured four in Honolulu – it is more important than ever that the State of Hawaiʻi takes action against gun violence,” said Gov. Ige. “Hawaiʻi has one of the lowest rates of gun violence in America, and this new law is key in helping law enforcement keep our communities safe.”