Is the Aloha State fast becoming a gun owner’s paradise? Historically, Hawaii hasn’t boasted a large population of gun owners or gun-friendly laws, yet data recently released by the state Attorney General’s office showed that gun ownership is booming in the Pacific archipelago.
Between the years of 2000 and 2014, more than 420,000 firearms were registered in the state of Hawaii, representing a massive 354 percent surge over preceding years. The number of statewide permit applications annually climbed 298 percent, while the number of imported firearms to the state rose over 356 percent. Overall, experts now think it is likely that the number of firearms in Hawaii is greater than the number of its residents (1.42 million).
“I think it’s pretty safe to say that there’s at least one firearm per state resident,” Paul Perrone, chief of research and statistics for the office of the Attorney General, told the Honolulu Civil Beat.
While some polls show that gun ownership in other states has declined, Hawaii remains consistently strong. Much of the demand seems to come from hunters, especially hog hunters who are introduced to the sport to help combat feral pigs.
“It appears that hunting is by far the No. 1 reason,” Kauai County spokesperson Sarah Blane told the The Garden Island.
Blane added that other popular reasons included personal protection and collecting.
The increasing number of gun owners in the state has also led to more residents calling for changes to Hawaii’s strict gun laws. Often compared alongside states like New York and Illinois as one of the toughest on guns, Hawaii requires its residents to procure a permit from local law enforcement before they’re allowed to acquire a gun. Many gun owners say the state’s strict laws prevent industry from doing business in Hawaii, which in turn makes it harder to purchase guns.
Jim Rosa, president of Rosa’s Arms in Kapaa, said that this makes firearms are more readily available to criminals than law-abiding citizens.
“What this means is that only the bad guys carry guns, with the exception of a very few active law enforcement officers, and that is a very sad situation for those of us in Hawaii,” he told the Beaumont Enterprise.
While the number of guns in Hawaii has increased, data from the Attorney General’s office also showed that only 10 percent of Hawaii households own a gun. While this number is consistently rising, it is also lower than the national average of 32 percent. Gun owners say that this is also caused by the state’s tough gun laws, which drive away many prospective buyers due to its permitting process.
So can Hawaii become a top gun state? The demand is there, but gun owners say that legislative reform is needed before the state can watch others on the mainland.