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How difficult is it to get a gun in Honolulu?


With gun laws much in the news, we thought we’d take a look at what, exactly, the process is for acquiring a handgun in Honolulu. Hawaii is generally known as one of the most restrictive states for gun laws. What does that mean, in practice?

In brief, anyone who wants a handgun here must do the following:

Pass a hunter education or gun safety education class. Hang on to your certificate proving that you’ve done so; you’ll need it.

Go to store, pick out your firearm. Note its make, model, serial number, barrel length.

Go to Honolulu Police Department main station, apply for permit to acquire that specific firearm. Submit proof that you’ve taken a safety class. You’ll be photographed, fingerprinted, and will give the police permission to access your private medical and mental health records. You’ll also agree to a criminal background check with the FBI and pay a $16.25 fee, if it’s your first time (cash only, exact change only, or they’ll send you away at the counter).

Wait 14 days.

Go to HPD main station, pick up your permit.

Go back to the store, with the permit, pick up the firearm.

Take firearm and permit back to the HPD main station, where police will confirm that the make, model, serial number and barrel length of what you bought matches what you took out a permit for.

Pau. With one caveat. “With the high demand for guns lately, people have been waiting in line at HPD for five hours, for each visit in the process,” says Harvey F. Gerwig II, the president and director of the Hawaii Rifle Assoc. The HRA would like the city council to introduce a bill calling for police stations in Kailua and Kapolei to also administer the permitting process.

The same steps apply to someone buying a handgun directly from another person. You can’t take possession until you’ve got the permit.

Hawaii does not allow concealed carry, though nationally, states have moved toward liberalizing that right. Roughly 42 states are what are known as “shall issue” states, meaning that laws require local government to approve a concealed-carry permit unless a specific citizen doesn’t meet the requirements. Ten states over the past decade have become “shall issue” states. Others, like Hawaii, are “may issue” states, which means that authorities have permission to grant a concealed carry permit if they want to, but in practice, typically use this latitude to say no.

Still more laws govern storage and transportation of firearms in Hawaii. Also, the procedures for acquiring rifles and shotguns are different from that for handguns. You can find a more detailed description of all the rules at the HRA website or consult the attached flowchart, a pdf HRA provided us.

People interested in the issue of gun rights and gun control in Hawaii might want to watch a recent one-hour episode of Dan Boylan’s “Insights” PBS special.

Gerwig can also be reached for questions at 306-7194.

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Honolulu Magazine April 2020
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