Gun owner contests petition in open-carry case

The attorneys for the Hilo man challenging Hawaii’s open-carry gun law filed a response Thursday to the state’s latest legal maneuver, saying its argument is both legally wrong and “far too little and far too late.”

The latest filing by former law enforcement officer George K. Young Jr. contests the state and Hawaii County’s joint petition asking the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals to reconsider a July ruling that would make it easier to carry firearms openly.

The state and Hawaii County are asking the full court to take a second look at a three-judge panel’s opinion that declared Hawaii’s requirement for getting a license to carry a firearm in public a violation of the U.S. Constitution’s Second Amendment right to bear arms for self-defense.

Thursday’s filing by Young’s attorneys, Alan Beck and Stephen Stamboulieh, argues that the panel was correct in concluding that “the right to bear arms must guarantee some right to self-defense in public” and that the state’s law “eviscerates” that right.

Young sued the state and the Hawaii Police Department in 2012 after then- Police Chief Harry Kubojiri twice rejected his application for a license to carry a firearm.

When the U.S. District Court in Hawaii rejected his case, he appealed to the 9th Circuit Court, which assigned a three-judge panel to the case.

That panel’s 2-1 opinion declared, among other things, that the exceptional-case requirement impinges on the right of a responsible, law-abiding citizen to carry a firearm openly for self-defense outside of the home.

But the state, in asking for full-court reconsideration, argued that the ruling was based on a misunderstanding of Hawaii law in that it limits open-carry licenses only to security guards and other people whose jobs require protecting life and property.

On the contrary, it said, the open-carry license is available to any qualified individual who demonstrates a need to carry a firearm and who is “engaged in the protection of life and property.”

To back up that statement, Hawaii Attorney General Russell Suzuki issued an opinion saying the law extends not only to security officers, but private individuals as well. The opinion advises police chiefs that victims of domestic violence and anyone who faces a credible threat of armed robbery or violent crime may be eligible for open-carry licenses.

But in their Thursday filing, Young’s attorneys say it’s too late for such an opinion because Hawaii already argued in court that its law was restrictive, and, in any case, the reality is that the state rarely issues any licenses and has done so only four times in the past 18 years.

The document also noted that the California attorney general’s office refused to issue opinions on pending litigation as a matter of policy because it might be considered an attempt to interfere with or influence the case.

“Apparently, the Hawaii Attorney General does not share that concern,” the filing said.

Krishna Jayaram, special assistant to the attorney general, said Suzuki would not comment on the filing.

“We plan to respond in court in due course,” Jayaram said in an email.

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