Gun sales have been blocked for much of December in Hawaii’s largest city.
That’s what the Hawaii Firearms Coalition, a local gun-rights group, claimed in a statement on Wednesday. It said the Honolulu Police Department (HPD) has advised gun purchase or carry permit applicants they won’t process them without a currently-unattainable training certification. And it’s unclear when those permits might become available again.
“It has been brought to our attention from multiple sources that the Honolulu Police Department, under the guidance of Police Chief Logan, is no longer processing ANY firearms permit applications or concealed carry applications until after the new year, and he has the ability to verify or certify instructors,” the group posted on social media. “The department requires all applications submitted after December 18th to provide proof of instruction by a certified/verified instructor before processing their application.
“The problem?????? He hasn’t certified or verified any instructors.”
The Honolulu Police Department did not return multiple calls seeking comment on the situation.
The move comes as Hawaii grapples with the fallout of the Supreme Court’s 2022 New York State Rifle and Pistol Association v. Bruen decision, which effectively struck down the state’s old gun-carry law and cast doubt on its other gun restrictions. The shutdown of gun license processing is the result of the state’s Bruen-response law. That legislation imposed a slew of new “gun-free zones” and tightened the application requirements for gun licenses.
Alan Beck, a gun-rights lawyer who practices in Hawaii, said the training certification issue is affecting Honolulu as well as other cities and counties throughout the state.
“Basically, all the current instructors have to go get recertified,’ Beck told The Reload, “but you don’t have a system to go get recertified.”
In an email to Beck, which was shared with The Reload, Honolulu Deputy Corporation Counsel Daniel M. Gluck confirmed the permits are not currently being issued. However, he said HPD is still accepting applications. He said the licenses will be issued once applicants can obtain training under the yet-to-be-created standards.
“Applicants for permits are being told that – because we’re less than 14 days from the change in the law on January 1 (meaning HPD legally cannot issue permits before January 1) – applicants will have to provide proof of training under the new statute (i.e., a handgun safety class within 4 years) when they come to pick up their permits,” Gluck told Beck. “Applicants are free to wait to submit their permit applications until they’ve finished the training, but they’re also welcome to submit their applications now (and just show proof of training when they come back to pick up the permit).”
He similarly noted HPD is currently accepting applications from firearms safety instructors for certification under the upcoming rules. He argued the new rules will be similar to the old, which should speed up the process.
“Applicants for permits are being told that – because we’re less than 14 days from the change in the law on January 1 (meaning HPD legally cannot issue permits before January 1) – applicants will have to provide proof of training under the new statute (i.e., a handgun safety class within 4 years) when they come to pick up their permits,” Gluck said. “Applicants are free to wait to submit their permit applications until they’ve finished the training, but they’re also welcome to submit their applications now (and just show proof of training when they come back to pick up the permit).”
Gluck said the city was aware of the delays that could result from the recertification process and said it wants “to start the verification process as early as possible so we don’t delay any permit applications.” But he also noted the HPD has 40 days to process gun purchase or carry permits under the new law.
However, Beck noted the new rules couldn’t go into place until at least ten days after the hearing scheduled for January 9th, 2024. He said those looking to buy guns or obtain carry permits would have to complete classes after the trainers are recertified, which would cause a further delay. The Hawaii Firearms Coalition said the city’s excuse represented “a gross abuse of the law” and was being used as “a scapegoat for this lack of competency.”
The Hawaiian gun-rights group warned the problem extends to the entire state and could last months. It called on law enforcement to advocate for a stay on implementing the new law while it works through the issues.
“All the other counties are in the same boat; realistically, the Chiefs should be pressuring the AG to suspend enforcement of the law for a few months until the process is in place,” the group said in its post. “But what’s more than likely is the countries will get sued for denying Hawaii’s law-abiding citizens the right to bear arms.”
Beck said Hawaiian officials were well aware of the deadline to create a new training certification process but simply didn’t act in time to avoid disruption to permit processing.
“They’ve known about it for a long time. Certainly, everyone has known that the counties we’re going to have to do something by January 1 in terms of the certification process for the instructors,” he said. “I guess I shouldn’t be surprised. But I am a little bit surprised that here we are with January 1 coming up in a few days, and they didn’t do it despite having six months.”
The Hawaii Firearms Coalition also questioned the constitutionality of the new law as well as the sales ban created by its bungled implementation.
“And this leads to another question: was there such a thing as a ‘permit to acquire’ in 1776? Or was that something new they created in the 21st century?” the group said.
Beck, who has already filed suit against the “gun-free zones” created by the new law, said the current cutoff of sales is hurting prospective gun buyers and licensed gun dealers alike.
“There are probably tens of thousands of dollars worth of lost sales happening every day,” he said. “In Honolulu alone, there are 117 registered FFLs.”
He told The Reload he’s currently considering filing suit over the inoperative purchase permit system, especially if Hawaiian officials don’t right the ship quickly.