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Goldwater to Supreme Court: ‘Spirit of Aloha’ Doesn’t Trump 2nd Amendment

June 20, 2024

In Hawaii, the word “aloha” is both a greeting and a farewell. But in the context of the Second Amendment, the Aloha State’s highest court only wants to say goodbye to the right of armed self-defense—and not in a nice way.

That’s why the Goldwater Institute, along with our friends at The Buckeye Institute and the Kansas Justice Institute, filed an amicus brief today in the case of Wilson v. Hawaii, asking the United States Supreme Court to undo a Hawaii Supreme Court ruling that guts the right to keep and bear arms in that state.

In 2022, the U.S. Supreme Court reiterated that the Second Amendment “protect[s] an individual’s right to carry a handgun for self-defense outside the home.” That decision, known as Bruen, applies in all states because of the Fourteenth Amendment—even anti-gun enclaves like Hawaii. The Hawaii legislature admitted as much when it amended its onerous and unconstitutional firearm licensing scheme in 2023.

But earlier this year, when the Hawaii Supreme Court decided the case of Christopher Wilson—who had been criminally charged under the state’s old firearm laws—the court completely rejected Bruen and the U.S. Supreme Court’s interpretation of the Second Amendment. The state supreme court instead said that “[t]he spirit of Aloha clashes with a federally-mandated lifestyle that lets citizens walk around with deadly weapons during day-to-day activities.”

Even if “the Aloha Spirit inspires constitutional interpretation” when it comes to the Hawaii state constitution (as the court wrote), interpretation of the federal constitution must comply with U.S. Supreme Court precedent. So, although under the Hawaii Constitution (which contains a provision nearly identical to the Second Amendment), “there is [now] no constitutional right to carry a firearm in public for possible self-defense,” the U.S. Constitution does protect that right.

Worse yet, the Hawaiian high court tried to prevent Wilson from being able to challenge the unconstitutional laws at all, finding that he did not have legal standing because he did not actually apply for a license under the prior (again, unconstitutional) system. Our brief makes clear that under federal law, “a person does not have to apply for a license before challenging an unconstitutional licensing scheme.”

The Hawaii Supreme Court is far from the only court across the country to resist Bruen and other landmark Second Amendment cases. But it might be the most egregious example to date.

The Goldwater Institute will continue to advocate nationwide for the rights to keep and bear arms in self-defense and the defense of others. Hopefully soon, Hawaiians will be able to welcome back those rights with a warm “aloha.”

You can read our brief here.

Click here to read more about Goldwater’s efforts to protect Second Amendment rights. You can learn more about Goldwater’s work defending gun rights organizations here and here. And our fight to protect the rights of firearm-related businesses is highlighted here and here.

Parker Jackson is a Staff Attorney at the Goldwater Institute.



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