Confusion regarding employees’ and the public’s right to carry firearms is an ongoing concern for employers, especially those who wish to restrict firearms in their workplaces, and gun rights advocates who seek to allow them. All employers should monitor recent changes and challenges to Hawai‘i’s concealed carry law.
In its last session, the Hawai‘i State Legislature passed new firearms legislation, to be codified as Hawai‘i Revised Statutes §134-A through G, effective in July 2023, in response to the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in New York State Rifle & Pistol Association, Inc. v. Bruen, which found states’ policies that allowed a denial of an application to carry a firearm based on subjective criteria to be unconstitutional. The new law, Act 52, is the Legislature’s effort to comply with the Supreme Court’s decision by (1) imposing new objective standards by which Hawai‘i police departments must review and approve firearms-related permits and license applications and (2) identifying events, facilities, and locations where carrying a firearm is prohibited.
While Act 52 removes barriers and restrictions for police departments’ approval of permit and license applications, the law prohibits carrying firearms in certain public areas, such as beaches, schools, bars, government buildings, and other “sensitive places” in which carrying or possessing dangerous weapons has traditionally been restricted.
What Does This Mean for Employers?
Act 52 does respect the rights of private individuals, businesses, and employers by allowing them to allow or restrict firearms on their property, provided that the property is not classified as a sensitive place. The law specifically provides that firearms shall not be carried on the private property of another person without the express authorization of the owner, lessee, operator, or manager of such property.
As a default rule, the new law prohibits carrying firearms on private property, including workplaces, but allows private entities to “opt in” to authorize the carry of firearms on their property. To opt in there must be clear signage allowing firearms on the property. Because firearms are presumed to be disallowed on private property in the absence of express authorization, no signage is required to indicate that firearms are prohibited. This means that no further action is required (e.g. putting up a sign stating that guns are not allowed) if an employer wishes to prohibit firearms at their workplace. If an employer decides to allow firearms, posting a sign allowing firearms is required.
Gun rights advocates are challenging the new standards and the broad list of sensitive places. Accordingly, navigating the realm of firearms regulations demands a precise and informed perspective, which remains unsettled. Hawai‘i’s courts are now charged with evaluating the new law to ensure both individual rights and public safety are upheld with the utmost integrity and are consistent with the U.S. Constitution. The information above is provided as a foundational guide and introduction to Hawai‘i’s new firearms laws, which are frequently changing. For more comprehensive information or tailored advice, it is important to seek counsel from a qualified attorney.