Attorney General Knudsen leads 17 state coalition against unconstitutional Hawaii firearm carry ban

Attorney General Knudsen leads 17 state coalition against unconstitutional Hawaii firearm carry ban

HELENA – Montana Attorney General Austin Knudsen led an effort joined by 16 other state attorneys general to halt Hawaii’s unconstitutional gun ban which prohibits the carry or possession of firearms in designated “sensitive” places, including bars and restaurants serving alcohol, parks and beaches, banks and financial institutions, and other areas. 

The attorneys general filed an amicus brief Tuesday in the case of Wolford v. Lopez, in support of three residents and the Hawaii Firearms Coalition in their lawsuit to overturn the ban, known as Act 52. Following a U.S. District Court decision that blocked Hawaii from enforcing much of the ban, the state appealed to the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.

“The district court judge came to the correct conclusion after applying Supreme Court precedent: this overreaching ban is a violation of the Second Amendment,” Attorney General Knudsen said. “Montanans’ right to keep and bear arms doesn’t end at our state’s borders. My office will continue to fight to uphold the Second Amendment and ensure strong precedent around the nation.” 

Following the U.S. Supreme Court decisions in District of Columbia v. Heller and New York State Rifle & Pistol Association, Inc. v. Bruen, courts must determine whether modern firearm regulations are consistent with the Second Amendment’s text and historical understanding. In this case, the district court correctly held that Hawaii’s historical evidence fails to establish an “enduring American tradition” of restricting the right to carry in public parks, beaches, banks, financial institutions, or bars and restaurants.  

Hawaii’s reliance on late-nineteenth-century restrictions in support of the ban fails to show a historical tradition of similar restrictions. Hawaii only points to two pre-1868 local ordinances of two specific New York parks and it points to one Pennsylvania state law, enacted in 1868. Bruen proves three localized restrictions between 1791 and 1868 “cannot overcome the overwhelming evidence of an otherwise enduring American tradition permitting public carry.” 

Hawaii also fails to produce relevantly similar historical public carry restrictions in banks and financial institutions. They argue that the provision in Act 52 addressing financial institutions is “relevantly similar” to historical regulations prohibiting public carry in fairs and markets. The district court rightly rejected this flawed argument. 

Further, Hawaii’s limited historical evidence fails to establish a historical tradition of public carry bans in bars and restaurants serving alcohol. Although Hawaii points to three state laws that largely mirror Act 52 and were passed between 1853 and 1890, the brief makes clear that even if these three laws are relevantly similar, the bare existence of three localized restrictions on their own “cannot overcome the overwhelming evidence of an otherwise enduring American tradition permitting public carry.”   

“Even if Reconstruction-era statutes and local ordinances can provide probative evidence of the Second Amendment’s original meaning, Hawaii’s evidence still fails to identify relevantly similar historical analogues for Act 52’s sensitive-place restrictions. Sweeping aside Hawaii’s irrelevant evidence leaves little remaining historical support for Act 52’s sensitive-place restrictions, and the district court refused to give Hawaii’s evidence ’more weight than it can rightly bear.’ This Court should affirm,” the attorneys general state in the brief. 

Click here to read the full brief. 

Attorneys general from Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Utah, West Virginia, and Wyoming also signed on in support. 

Attorney General Knudsen has been actively fighting the targeting of the firearms industry and Montanans’ gun rights. He asked major shipping companies to clarify their gun-purchase tracking policies and called on YouTube to stop censoring firearm-related speech. He also filed a lawsuit against the Biden administration’s unlawful pistol brace rule. In August, he led a coalition of 19 attorneys general to halt a Maryland county’s unconstitutional gun ban in places of public assembly and in the 100-yard “buffer zones” around them. In March, Attorney General Knudsen led a coalition of 18 other state attorneys general in filing amicus briefs regarding cases concerning New York’s unconstitutional law making it a felony to possess a firearm in “sensitive places,” which it defines to include “any place of worship or religious observation.” 


Skip to content