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Hawaii’s Young Guns

Meet Honolulu’s new generation of gun owners.


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Britt Yap and Rod Pontemayor

Meet Honolulu’s new generation of gun owners.

Photo: Elyse Butler Mallams

Age: 30/35
From: Kunia
Occupation: Reiki healer, life coach and hypnotherapist/Histology technician
Political leanings: Independent

Guns were once a source of contention for Britt Yap and then-boyfriend Rod Pontemayor. In the weeks and months leading up to Yap’s 2011 move to California to live with Pontemayor, the couple had several heated conversations about his plans to buy a gun. 

“I was totally against it,” says Yap. “Maybe, culturally, as a Native Hawaiian, I felt there’s a history there—a lot of bloodshed because of guns. I never thought I’d be open to owning one.”

By the time Yap, 30, arrived in the Bay Area, Pontemayor, 35, had already purchased a 9 mm Glock, mostly for self-protection. Yap was still not sold. “I called my dad and I said, ‘What should I do? I don’t know how I feel about this. There’s a gun in my house,’” she says. Her dad told her something that changed her relationship with Pontemayor and to guns.

“He said, either you go all in and learn how to use it or get rid of that thing,” Yap recalls.

The couple lived a few minutes outside of Oakland, and news of constant gun violence helped her decision along. Early-morning break-ins, stories of “people getting shot up” seemed to dominate the evening television newscasts.

“He’d go off to work in the morning and I’d be home alone,” she says. “I couldn’t keep arguing about this ‘scary’ thing in our house.”

Yap went all in. She began studying for the California licensure exam and practicing at shooting ranges with Pontemayor. She eventually ended up buying her own 22-Magnum handgun.

Over the past few years, the couple has amassed nearly a dozen guns between them, split evenly between handguns and rifles, including an AR-15.  

The couple even took a tactical home defense course together taught by the San Jose Police Department’s SWAT team.  “We decided if we were going to do it, we were going to do it right,” Pontemayor says.

Now living in Royal Kunia, Yap breaks a lot of the typical gun-owner stereotypes. The Kamehameha Schools graduate and former public relations professional is now a certified reiki healer, life coach and hypnotherapist. Pontemayor, now her husband, works in healthcare.

Yap recalls how some of her close friends were “uncomfortable” with her new-found hobby when she began to post photos on social media sites.

“I’ve changed a lot of perceptions of what a gun owner looks like,” she says. “They trust us. They know we’re responsible people. We don’t force it on anyone.”

They’re now getting into archery, with a little inspiration from The Hunger Games.

“It’s cheaper. And you can actually recover your ammo,” Yap says.

Does that mean they’ll be giving up their gun hobby? Not a chance.

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Honolulu Magazine March 2019
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