A federal judge has barred the state of Hawaii from enforcing a newly imposed weapons prohibition on its famed beaches and in other venues such as banks, restaurants, and parks, citing a historic U.S. Supreme Court victory expanding gun rights last year.
On Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Leslie Kobayashi in Honolulu determined that the bans likely violated the rights of permit-carrying gun owners to carry firearms in public under the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution.
Those restrictions were enacted after the conservative-majority Supreme Court in June 2022 declared for the first time that the Second Amendment’s guarantee of a person’s right to “keep and bear arms” protects an individual’s right to carry a handgun in public for self-defense.
That decision, New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen, announced a new test for assessing firearms laws, saying restrictions must be “consistent with this nation’s historical tradition of firearm regulation.”
The ruling prompted Hawaiian lawmakers to pass a bill that Democratic Governor Josh Green signed into law in June that sought to comply with the decision while deterring gun violence by barring firearms in “sensitive places.”
The measure was challenged by three Hawaii residents and the gun rights group Hawaii Firearms Coalition, who called the prohibitions unconstitutional.
Hawaii Attorney General Anne Lopez’s office argued the law was consistent with historical gun regulations and served a state interest in protecting public safety, including on crowded beaches where children and families congregate.
But while Kobayashi acknowledged the important role beaches play in Hawaii’s economy, “the state does not provide any evidence that this nation has a historical tradition of regulating or prohibiting the carrying of firearms on beaches.”
Kobayashi, an appointee of Democratic then-President Barack Obama, said Hawaii’s ban on guns in bars and restaurants that serve alcohol likewise failed due to the “confounding” and “curious” way the Supreme Court defined what constitutes a “historical tradition” of gun regulation.
Alan Beck, a lawyer for the plaintiffs, hailed the judge’s temporary restraining order, saying Kobayashi “faithfully applied Supreme Court precedent and came to the correct result.”
A spokesperson for Lopez did not respond to a request for comment.