City and state to pay $130K to settle gun owner’s lawsuit
HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The city and the state have agreed to pay more than $130,000 to settle a lawsuit by a Navy officer who was ordered to turn in his firearms.
A Honolulu City Council committee Tuesday approved the city’s portion of the settlement — $102,500 — which goes to the full council next month.
The lawsuit by Michael Santucci alleged that the HPD seized his guns and that it held up his permit application in 2021 because he wrote down on his firearms questionnaire that he had recently received mental health counseling.
His lawyer said police had violated Santucci’s constitutional rights.
“Mr. Santucci’s case sort of demonstrates the attitude that HPD has toward people owning firearms. I think they view it really more as a privilege rather than a constitutional right,” said Santucci’s lawyer Alan Beck.
Under state law, police can deny a gun permit to applicants with a significant mental health disorder.
But Beck said Santucci — a 26-year-old Florida native — was homesick and had simply sought counseling at Tripler Army Medical Center.
A federal judge ruled in Santucci’s favor last year, saying the state can’t deny him a gun permit because he didn’t have a significant mental illness.
The ruling did not overturn state laws barring gun ownership by mentally ill residents, nor did it restrict the HPD’s ability to conduct background checks.
But it did force the city to settle Santucci’s lawsuit by agreeing to pay him more than $102,500.
The state — which is responsible for enforcing gun registration laws — must also pay $28,000.
The HPD — which has since changed its firearms questionnaire after Santucci’s suit was filed — had no immediate comment.
Gun rights advocates said the city should have settled the case long ago.
“The police department could have just turned around and said, ‘Well, you know, we’re wrong,’” said Andrew Namiki Roberts of the Hawaii Firearms Coalition.
“They didn’t; they dragged it out, the Attorney General was involved, and now it’s ended up costing the taxpayers $130,000.”
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