Christopher Baker filed a lawsuit against the state of Hawaii and the Honolulu Police Department after he was denied a license to carry a firearm in 2011. With an opinion issued by the Ninth US Circuit Court of Appeals last Thursday, he may get a second chance. The Ninth Circuit panel consisted of the same three judges who struck down San Diego’s strict concealed carry requirements last month, which ended in broad ramifications for California’s strict gun control laws. Now the panel’s most recent ruling could result in the same for Hawaii.
The appeals court is sending the case back to district court, where a judge had previously ruled against Baker for not having provided enough evidence that the state’s strict license requirements are a violation of the Second Amendment.
“The district court made an error of law when it concluded that the Hawaii statutes did not implicate Second Amendment Activity,” read the opinion.
Obtaining a license to carry firearms in Hawaii, either concealed or otherwise, is very rare. Due to Hawaiian law, these licenses are only given in “exceptional cases” where an applicant can prove they need a firearm for self-protection. In practice, very few of these applications are ever approved. Pro-gun advocates say this is a clear violation of the Second Amendment.
“The Second Amendment protects the right to self-defense. Everyday around the islands good people are robbed, assaulted, raped, or in the worst cases murdered. It’s simply a matter of physics, the Police can’t be everywhere to stop criminals from committing violent acts. We must be allowed to carry the tools that give us a chance to protect ourselves from harm,” Baker told the Hawaii Reporter in 2011. “We want criminals to have to think about the consequences of attacking someone,” he continued, “but right now, nothing serves as a deterrent to them—the odds are in their favor.”
Baker is also the president of the Hawaii Defense Foundation, an advocacy group for gun owners in the state. His lawyer, attorney Richard Holcomb, said the recent opinion by the Ninth Circuit panel may have the same effect in Hawaii as it did in California.
“We believe [the court] validated our position there’s a right to carry a firearm outside the home for the purpose of self-defense,” Holcomb told the Associated Press. “Every citizen has a right to defend themselves.”
University of Hawaii law professor Kenneth Lawson agreed, and said that the recent opinion could be the first step to turning Hawaii into a “shall issue” state.
“Baker has a claim and he can challenge Hawaii’s statute as being unconstitutional,” Lawson said. “I think if people are under the impression they don’t have a right to carry a weapon […] it could have an impact.”
Legal representatives for the city of Honolulu have stated that they are currently reviewing the appeals court ruling.