The Supreme Court of Hawaii ruled unanimously on Wednesday that state citizens do not have the right to carry firearms in public without a license, claiming that the state constitution supersedes that of the United States. In an apparent rebuke of the US Supreme Court, the Hawaiian justices cited “the spirit of Aloha” and the wisdom of HBO’s early 2000s crime drama “The Wire” to reject the argument for constitutional carry.
Hawaii v. Wilson, the case at the center of the ruling, stems from earlier proceedings in 2017 when Hawaiian Christopher Wilson was arrested and charged with carrying an unlicensed firearm. Wilson, who had bought his gun legally in Florida in 2013, argued that the arrest violated his Second Amendment right to self-defense. The US Supreme Court affirmed in 2008 (DC v. Heller) and reaffirmed in 2022 (New York State Rifle and Pistol Association v. Bruen) that “the right to keep and bear arms” extends beyond the home. A lower court ruling found that Wilson’s rights had been violated and vacated the charges, prompting the state to appeal to the state Supreme Court.
However, in Wednesday’s 5-0 ruling, the justices in Hawaii rejected the high court’s 2008 and 2022 rulings. Instead, they argued that while the state constitution “mirrors” the language of the Second Amendment, they “read those words differently than the current United States Supreme Court.”
“We hold that in Hawaii there is no state constitutional right to carry a firearm in public,” Justice Todd Eddins wrote in the majority decision. “The spirit of Aloha clashes with a federally-mandated lifestyle that lets citizens walk around with deadly weapons during day-to-day activities.”
Eddins also cites Hawaii’s history as an independent island nation, which “does not include a society where armed people move about the community to possibly combat the deadly aims of others.”
The justices also affirmed that the US Supreme Court’s stance on gun ownership constitutes an outdated application of the Constitution. According to the decision:
We believe it is a misplaced view to think that today’s public safety laws must look like laws passed long ago. Smoothbore, muzzle-loaded, and powder-and-ramrod muskets were not exactly useful to colonial era mass murderers. And life is a bit different now, in a nation with a lot more people, stretching to islands in the Pacific Ocean.
As the world turns, it makes no sense for contemporary society to pledge allegiance to the founding era’s culture, realities, laws, and understanding of the Constitution. “The thing about the old days, they the old days.” The Wire: Home Rooms (HBO television broadcast Sept. 24, 2006) (Season Four, Episode Three).
The court’s final decision determined that restricting gun-carrying among citizens has “preserved peace and tranquility in Hawaii.”
The full Hawaii Supreme Court decision in Hawaii v. Wilson can be read below: