Hawaii's Supreme Court Insists
There Is No Individual Right to Arms

Rejecting a challenge to the state's strict gun laws, the court
is openly contemptuous of Second Amendment precedents.

Hawaii Supreme Court Justice Todd Eddins (Facebook/Hawaii Governor's Office)

By Jacob Sullum. Feb 8, 2024

In the landmark 2008 case District of Columbia v. Heller, the U.S. Supreme Court explicitly recognized that the Second Amendment protects an individual right to arms. It reaffirmed that conclusion two years later in McDonald v. Chicago, which applied the Second Amendment to the states via the 14th Amendment. And in the 2022 case New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen, the Court held that "the right of the people to keep and bear arms" extends beyond the home.

The Hawaii Supreme Court thinks all of those cases were wrongly decided. In a ruling issued on Wednesday, the court sides with the Heller dissenters by embracing the view that "the right of the people to keep and bear arms"—unlike "the right of the people peaceably to assemble" (protected by the First Amendment), "the right of the people" to be secure from "unreasonable searches and seizures" (protected by the Fourth Amendment), and the unspecified rights "retained by the people" under the Ninth Amendment—does not refer to an individual right. Rather, the Hawaii Supreme Court says, the Second Amendment involves a "collective right" that is relevant only in the context of militia service.

The court's unanimous decision in State v. Wilson, which rejects a challenge to Hawaii's highly restrictive gun regulations, is openly contemptuous of the U.S. Supreme Court's reasoning in debunking that "collective right" interpretation. The framers of the Second Amendment, the opinion says, aimed to prevent the national government from disarming state militias; they gave no thought to "someone packing a musket to the wigmaker just in case."

The pretext for this assault on Heller and its progeny was that the case required the Hawaii Supreme Court to interpret Article I, Section 17 of the state constitution, which is essentially identical to the Second Amendment. But the case also required the court to apply the Second Amendment as elucidated by Heller, McDonald, and Bruen, which the court in effect refused to do. Given the opinion's open rebellion against those precedents and the fundamental right to armed self-defense, Second Amendment attorney Kostas Moros remarks, it "sounds like the Hawaii Supreme Court doesn't even want to be a part of the United States." .....


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