A three-judge panel on Tuesday said that Hawaii’s restrictions on the open carry of firearms in public were not in line with the Second Amendment. In a 2-1 decision, the U.S. 9th Circuit this week overturned a prior ruling by District Judge Helen Gillmor in the case of George Young in his lawsuit against a number of officials in Hawaii.
Young held that his denial of an application for a handgun license stepped on his Second Amendment rights to carry a loaded firearm openly for self-defense outside of the home and the panel agreed. Hawaii law narrowly allows the ability to open carry to a select few — such as security guards — which the state supported in arguments earlier this year. This, the majority found, was just plain wrong.
“Restricting open carry to those whose job entails protecting life or property necessarily restricts open carry to a small and insulated subset of law-abiding citizens,” said Judge Diarmuid F. O’Scannlain for the panel, which included Judge Sandra S. Ikuta. “Just as the Second Amendment does not protect a right to bear arms only in connection with a militia, it surely does not protect a right to bear arms only as a security guard.”
The court, in the end, held that “while the concealed carry of firearms categorically falls outside Second Amendment” as put forward by the 2016 9th Circuit decision in the Peruta case in California, the Amendment, “encompasses a right to carry a firearm openly in public for self-defense.”
The case revolved around Young’s repeated attempts to obtain a permit going back as far as 2011, all of which were rebuffed in a state where it is notoriously hard to be granted a carry permit of any sort. As Guns.com discovered in 2014, state officials characterized that applications were routinely denied with only 63 applications for concealed carry licenses submitted to Hawaii’s four county police departments since 2000 and few granted. The Washington Free Beacon found that in 2016 there wasn’t a single carry permit issued in the state.
“I am very happy for my client,” Alan Beck, who along with attorney Stephen Stamboulieh represented Young, told Guns.com. “I believe that the 9th Circuit applied the law correctly and I am looking forward to my client being able to exercise his Second Amendment rights in the near future.”
Hawaii Attorney General Russell Suzuki, in a statement, said that the ruling would “undermine Hawaii’s strong gun control laws and commitment to protect the public,” and is weighing further appeal. At the same time, gun control advocates slammed Young as a “dangerous” ruling that “reveals the hypocrisy of so-called ‘originalist’ interpretations of the Second Amendment.”
Meanwhile, in California, Charles Nichols, whose own languishing 2011 challenge has been in a holding pattern since February with the 9th Circuit pending a decision in Young, is hopeful about what it could mean for his state.
“Given that Mr. Young was denied a license to openly carry a handgun not because Hawaii law prohibits him from obtaining a license, which is the case in California for counties with a population of 200,000 or more people, but because of a policy choice made by his Chief of Police,” Nichols told Guns.com in an email.
“If the decision in Young v. Hawaii stands then licenses to openly carry handguns throughout the State of California will soon become shall-issue because my California open carry lawsuit, Nichols v. Brown, challenges the California statutory prohibitions on the issuance of handgun open carry licenses,” he continued.