The state of Hawaii did not issue any gun-carry permits to private citizens in 2016, documents released to the Washington Free Beacon on Tuesday show.
Documents submitted by county police to the state's Department of the Attorney General show that every application by a private citizen for a concealed-carry permit was denied in 2016. That makes Hawaii the only state in the country not to issue even a single concealed-carry permit last year.
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"All other states have issued permits," said Dr. John Lott Jr. of the Crime Prevention Research Center, which tracks the number of gun-carry permits across the country. "The next lowest state is New Jersey with about 1,200 permits, but half of those are issued to judges and retired police officers. Even D.C. last year had 74 permits for civilians being able to carry."
Since the Hawaii concealed-carry permit is only valid for one year, Hawaii was also the only state in the country not to have any active concealed-carry permits issued to private citizens. Hawaii's concealed-carry law requires that only in "an exceptional case" where somebody can show "reason to fear injury to the applicant's person or property" may a county police chief issue a permit. Unlike in most of the country, however, the county police chiefs have the ultimate authority over who does and does not get a permit.
According to the Department of the Attorney General's 2015 Firearms Registration report, Hawaii County did not issue a single concealed-carry permit to a private citizen from 2000 through at least 2014—a not unusual practice in Hawaii. "Statewide, there have been a couple/few over the years," Paul Perrone, Hawaii's chief of research and statistics, told the Free Beacon.
George Pace, a local gun-rights activist, said the system is impossible to navigate. "They do not issue licenses (by the last chief’s own admission, as far as he knew there has never been a license issued in this county), so a person is wasting their time and money going through the ‘process,'" he said. "People have reportedly even been told as they turn in their paperwork to the clerks ‘You will not get a license' without them even reading the application (i.e., there is no such thing as ‘an exceptional case', no matter what you write on there), and of course the official records bear that out."
Hawaii has long had some of the strictest gun control laws in the nation. Beyond their concealed-carry law, the state requires permits to buy firearms, requires them to be registered, and submits gun owners to a federal database. Gun rights activists are preparing to target the state in federal court because they believe that's what will be necessary to change their laws.
"Hawaii keeps defying the United States Supreme Court rulings in Heller and McDonald," Alan Gottlieb of the Second Amendment Foundation said. "It will take getting a Supreme Court ruling to get Hawaii to issue permits. As soon as President Trump gets his nominee seated on the Court, the Hawaii de facto ban will be in the crosshairs of the gun rights movement."