Hawaii’s Young Guns
Meet Honolulu’s new generation of gun owners.
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Carpenter and family man Shane Fujinaga sees guns as a way to keep his family safe.
Photo: Elyse Butler Mallams
Political leanings: Christian Conservative
As far back as Shane Fujinaga can remember, a gun was just another tool in the back of the truck. Born and raised in Waialua, Fujinaga grew up hunting pig and deer with his dad and uncle on Molokai and Kauai.
It wasn’t until he went away to college in Las Vegas, and a friend’s parents were robbed in their own home at gunpoint, that Fujinaga started to think about owning guns for self-protection.
“No one was hurt. It was lucky for them. Not every case is like that. A lot of times, if (criminals) face resistance, they’ll escalate to deadly force,” Fujinaga says. “That’s what initially got me into defensive training.”
He bought his first gun, a Sig Sauer P226 9 mm handgun, at the age of 23. Twelve years later, Fujinaga is a father of two and is a popular NRA-certified firearms instructor on the North Shore. He has decided to make it his life’s mission to help others protect themselves. Since becoming an instructor in 2011, he’s had more than 300 students go through his basic and advanced-level courses, including Honolulu City Councilwoman Kymberly Pine.
In some ways, he says, having children has made him even more committed to firearms and teaching people to protect themselves.
“I see my son light up and I just want to preserve that as long as I can,” he says. “I want to go to sleep every night knowing I did everything I could to keep my family safe.”
His wife, Athena Fujinaga, says she wasn’t always OK with the idea of guns. It was a slow progression, but eventually she took a gun-safety course herself and became a gun owner.
“He took me diving a lot, and then it was more hunting on land. That’s when the firearms began. He got more and more into it. I was not comfortable all,” she says. “I said, if I’m going to be with this guy, I can’t ask him to give up something he loves.”
Hawaii’s gun laws are often a source of consternation for local firearms owners. But Fujinaga says he’s not particularly bothered by background-check requirements or waiting periods.
“It’s all about intent. The last thing I want is this in the hands of someone who intends to hurt people,” he says, gesturing to several guns lying on the tailgate of
Fujinaga took us to a piece of private property in Waialua to demonstrate an AR-15 rifle, often cited as an “assault weapon” in recent Congressional efforts to ban the gun. He’s bothered by federal attempts to cherry-pick certain firearms to ban.
He shot an AR-15 in rapid succession and then switched to a 12-gauge, pump-action shotgun to compare the two guns. The shotgun ripped through the target. “No one’s talking about banning this thing, but it causes way more damage,” he says.
In a place like Honolulu, which trails most U.S. cities when it comes to violent crime, is there really a need to own guns?
“Can you guarantee something isn’t going to happen to my family?” he asks. “I’m not going to be the one to live with that.”