Hawaii Supreme Court Says ‘Spirit Of Aloha’ Supersedes 2nd Amendment

FILE - Assault weapons and hand guns are seen for sale at Capitol City Arms Supply, Jan. 16, 2013, in Springfield, Ill. Visa is pausing their decision to start categorizing purchases at gun shops, a significant win for conservative groups and 2nd Amendment advocates who felt that tracking gun shop purchases would inadvertently discriminate against legal firearms purchases. (AP Photo/Seth Perlman, File)

The Hawaii Supreme Court declared Wednesday that Second Amendment rights, which have been traditionally understood following U.S. Supreme Court interpretations, do not apply to Hawaiian citizens in the same manner. The decision specifically referenced the unique “spirit of Aloha” that characterizes the state’s ethos.

Justice Todd Eddins, writing for the Hawaii Supreme Court, authored the opinion that upheld states’ authority to mandate individuals to possess the necessary permits for carrying firearms in public spaces. The court underscored that the Hawaii Constitution does not recognize the right to publicly carry firearms for self-defense purposes. This sentiment was tied to the “spirit of Aloha” and, interestingly, the ruling quoted the HBO series “The Wire” to emphasize its point.

According to the court’s decision, “Article I, section 17 of the Hawaii Constitution, which is similar to the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, is interpreted distinctly in Hawaii.” It declared that no state constitutional right exists that would allow the carrying of a firearm in public areas.

“The spirit of Aloha is fundamentally at odds with a federally imposed lifestyle that permits citizens to bear arms during their daily routines,” the ruling continued. It also pointed out that the history and culture of the Hawaiian Islands do not reflect a society accustomed to the presence of armed citizens engaging with potential threats in public.

Furthermore, the court expressed that Hawaii’s regulations limiting certain gun-carry rights have historically helped maintain peace and order throughout the islands. It emphasized the detrimental impact that a permissive approach to public gun carrying would have on other constitutional rights, including the right to life and liberty, as well as the pursuit of happiness, which encompasses the freedom to move in peace.

Adding a cultural reference, the court quoted the popular line from “The Wire,” stating, “the thing about the old days, they the old days,” to negate the applicability of 18th-century cultural norms and legal interpretations to modern society.

The issue originated in December 2017, when Hawaii resident Christopher Wilson was detained for carrying an unregistered firearm, for which he had not obtained a permit in Hawaii. Wilson, who had purchased the firearm in Florida back in 2013, argued that the charges infringed upon his Second Amendment rights. However, the Reload reported that the Hawaii high court explicitly diverged from the U.S. Supreme Court’s readings of the Second Amendment in prominent cases such as 2008’s District of Columbia v. Heller and 2022’s New York State Rifle and Pistol Association v. Bruen, where the right to carry firearms has been constitutionally protected.