The permitting process and laws regarding firearms are uniform throughout the state of Hawai‘i, and for most gun owners the responsibilities comes with the territory and compliance is not a problem.
For some, compliance with the rules is a problem and can result in misdemeanor or felony criminal charges. A lesser number who use a firearm in the commission of a separate crime make life even more difficult for law-abiding gun owners.
Chapter 134 of the Hawai‘i Revised Statutes covers the regulations regarding “Firearms, Ammunition and Dangerous Weapons.”
Starting with “Definitions” in Section 134-1, and ending with “Butterfly knives” in Section 134-53, everything in between will help someone apply their own situation to the topics regarding weapons under the law.
A state gun permit registration form requires the applicant to fill in the name of the manufacturer and importer; model, type of action, caliber or gauge, serial number, and receipt to include name and address of prior registrant. If there is not a serial number, the permit number must be engraved on the firearm prior to registering.
The law requires confidentiality of the applicant’s registration data, except to process the registration. Only the judiciary or law enforcement agencies may use the information for official business.
A resident must register a firearm with the Chief of Police within three days after arrival of the person or the firearm, whichever arrives last. Residents acquiring a firearm in the state have five days to register.
The background check for a gun permit requires disclosure of protected health care information relating to an individual’s mental health history. The information is used only for evaluating fitness to acquire or own a firearm.
The police are required to contact an applicant regarding a denied permit by certified mail, and to note when a denial requires the voluntary disposal or seizure of firearms and ammunition within 30 days.
The Chief of Police is required to adopt procedures regarding persons wanting a license to carry a concealed weapon. The policies must show that the person is qualified to use the firearm in a safe manner and otherwise eligible and suitable to be licensed.
A fugitive or person prohibited from possessing firearms or ammunition under federal law may not own, possess, or control any firearm or ammunition. A person under indictment, bound over to Circuit Court, or convicted of a felony offense, a crime of violence, or an illegal sale of drugs may also not own, possess, or control firearms or ammunition.
A person acquitted of a crime on the grounds of mental disease, disorder, or defect, is not eligible for a gun permit. The same goes for a person under treatment or counseling for addiction, abuse, or dependence of a dangerous, harmful, or detrimental drug, intoxicating compound or liquor.
A person diagnosed as having a significant behavioral, emotional, or mental disorder may qualify for an exception with medically documented certification that they are no longer adversely affected.
No person under age 25 that has been adjudicated by the Family Court to have committed a felony, two or more crimes of violence, or an illegal sale of any drug, may own, possess or control any firearm or ammunition.
A person with a restraining order in effect, including an ex-parte order for contacting, threatening, or physically abusing a person, is also disqualified. The order must specifically include a statement that possession, control, or transfer of ownership of a firearm or ammunition by the person named in the order is prohibited.
For the duration of such orders, any firearm or ammunition must be turned over to the police department or licensed arms dealer for safekeeping.
Owning or converting a firearm to automatic or possession of a silencer or muffling device is prohibited by law. This includes assault pistols, and rifles with barrel lengths less than 16 inches; shotguns with barrels less than 18 inches, cannons, hand grenades, dynamite, blasting caps, bombs, bombshells or other explosives.
Detachable pistol ammunition magazines with a capacity of 10 rounds or more are illegal, as are electric guns, switchblades and butterfly knives. Ammunition or projectiles coated with Teflon or designed to explode or penetrate metal or pierce protective armor are also illegal.
Common firearms violations include, “Place to keep loaded firearms other than pistols and revolvers.” This usually means the offender had possession of the weapon in a place other than their “business, residence, or sojourn” and was not at a place of repair, hunting or target range, licensed dealer, show or exhibit, or police station.
Another common violation is carrying or possessing a loaded firearm on a public highway. This can result in the forfeit of the firearm or the vehicle in addition to jail or fines.
Storing a firearm where a minor is likely to gain access to it without permission is also a violation. It must be stored in a securely locked box, container or location.
To transfer ownership or possession of a firearm, the recipient must be over the age of 18, and acquire a permit to prove authorized possession and legal qualification. A lawfully acquired rifle or shotgun may be lent to an adult not prohibited from ownership or possession for up to 15 days in-state, and 75 days out of state without a permit.
As of July 1, 1992, no person may legally sell or transfer an operable assault pistol in the state. The exception is to a licensed arms dealer or the Chief of Police.
A nonresident may bring up to 10 firearms that are not prohibited by law into the state for up to 90 days. The applicant must qualify for registration, have a valid Hawai‘i hunting license, or show that they are invited to shoot at a private firing range, commercial or private preserve, or target shooting business.
A person age 16 or under accompanied by an adult may carry and use a lawfully acquired rifle or shotgun and suitable ammunition while engaged in hunting or target shooting. A hunting license is not required for target shooting or when traveling to and from a place of hunting.
A person may carry and use a lawfully acquired pistol or revolver while engaged in hunting game mammals, if suitable ammunition is acceptable for hunting. It may be transported in an enclosed container while going to and from the hunt.
• Island Crime Beat is a weekly column that reflects on the current events and issues regarding the police, courts and criminal justice system of Kaua‘i.