Governor signs laws banning guns in ‘sensitive’ places, requiring active shooter drills in schools

Gov. Josh Green signed two new gun measures into law on Friday, restricting guns in so-called “sensitive locations."
Published: Jun. 2, 2023 at 11:57 AM HST|Updated: Jun. 2, 2023 at 5:27 PM HST
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Gov. Josh Green signed two new gun measures into law on Friday, restricting guns in so-called “sensitive locations” and requiring active shooter drills in the state’s public and charter schools.

But gun rights advocates say the tough gun control laws are a target for lawsuits.

Under the first measure signed into law Friday, guns are now restricted across the state in sensitive locations like state buildings, parks, public transportation, businesses that serve alcohol, schools, and hospitals.

“This is a public health crisis in our country,” Green said. “Anything we can do, we should do.”

Hawaii has an average of 3.8 gun deaths per 100,000 residents compared to 11.9 gun deaths per 100,000 nationally. This makes Hawaii the state with the second-lowest gun death rate in the country following Massachusetts.

But Green said he hopes Hawaii can achieve the lowest gun death rate in the country.

The laws were passed in the wake of a 2022 Supreme Court ruling that required states to issue concealed carry licenses to anyone with ordinary self-defense needs.

State Rep. David Tarnas said that the 2022 Supreme Court ruling “changed everything in Hawaii,” but added the new “sensitive locations” ban conforms to the high court’s decision.

To be granted concealed carry license under the new law, an applicant must complete a comprehensive training program and background checks.

Honolulu and Hawaii counties already have sensitive places restrictions.

Alan Beck, gun rights attorney, said the laws are almost certain to be challenged in court.

“It’s a huge waste of the taxpayers’ money because a lawsuit inevitably is going to have to be filed,” he said.

Similar legislation has already been struck down in New York and New Jersey.

State Attorney General Anne Lopez said she is ready to litigate the new law in court if it is challenged.

Under the second measure signed into law Friday, the Department of Education is required to work with designated organizations to develop active shooter training programs.

Senate Vice President Michelle Kidani said that the safety of Hawaii’s children is “our utmost priority.” For their comfort, students at public and charter schools can decline to participate in the drills.

The two bills were signed on National Gun Violence Awareness Day.

Several supporters of the bill attended the signing, including Angelica Mercado, executive director of the Hawaii State Coalition Against Domestic Violence.

Mercado said that the sensitive places restriction protects not only domestic violence shelters but also other locations where victims receive services.

“We want to make sure that people know that survivors of domestic violence are particularly at risk for gun violence,” Mercado said. “We want our survivors of domestic violence to know that we are here for them.”

Also attending was Ilima Decosta, holding a photo of her daughter Elizabeth, who was killed by a gun.

“Today’s event was really important for me to attend precisely as a parent who’s lost a child to gun violence,” Decosta said. “I think it’s important for us to stand up and help to support measures that will keep our community safe.”