HONOLULU (KHON2) — The Big Island has pulled ahead of Maui as the county with the most concealed-carry gun permits approved since a United State Supreme Court ruling this summer forced Hawaii to issue them.

Only two of the state’s four counties have issued any yet. The pace of issuance — and new rules meant to protect sensitive places — could lead back to court.

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Always Investigating has been tracking gun permits since key rulings at the nation’s highest court months ago paved the way for concealed carry in a state where police chiefs rarely to never granted them before.

Maui was first out of the gate to grant them earlier this fall but the Big Island has taken the lead, with 19 issued and 31 pending. Maui issued 11, with 89 waiting. Thirty-five people on Kauai applied, with none issued there. Also, none issued on Oahu where 535 applications have piled up.

“Only two counties have issued them. That’s a worry,” said Andrew Namiki Roberts, with the Hawaii Firearms Coalition. “We shouldn’t have four different policies for issuing permits. The state law is the same across the state. The regulations and rules for getting them should be uniform.”

Earlier this month the Honolulu Police Department held a hearing about concealed carry rules and had originally targeted month-end for issuance but now HPD told KHON2:

“We are presently working with the Department of Corporation Counsel to consider changes to reflect the concerns that were raised at the public hearing.  The rules are expected to be finalized in the near future.”

There is no set timeline for issuance.

As for Kauai, the other county not yet issuing, here’s what Kauai Police Department Chief Todd Raybuck told KHON2 this week about next steps:

“We are in the we are in the final stages of identifying and producing some training for our police officers. We want to make sure that we educate people how to have those safe interactions and how to respond when you see somebody now who is legally carrying a firearm in the state of Hawaii, which is very uncomfortable for a lot of people and a new experience for all of us.”

Gun-rights advocates take issue with the pace of permitting and stated they expect 50,000 to 60,000 people in Hawaii will sign up based on national averages of 5% to 8% of the population applying to carry in other states.

“The 500 people in Honolulu that have already applied is a drop in the water,” Roberts said. “Day one that those get issued, we are going to see a mad rush on the police departments to get more people getting them. So whatever policies they need to put in place now needs to be streamlined to allow the effective issuance of them. If not, a delay is going to just cause a lawsuit.”

In one of the lawsuits that set the stage for concealed carry here in the first place — New York State Rifle and Pistol Association v. Bruen — the U.S. Supreme Court reaffirmed states and counties can prohibit firearms in “sensitive places” like schools or government buildings.

Hawaii County Council’s public safety committee takes up a “sensitive places” measure, Bill 220, this coming Tuesday morning.

KHON2 talked with Honolulu’s mayor about his county’s approach earlier this week.

“We’ve had a long 17-year history of not having open carry guns, it’s not part of our culture,” Mayor Rick Blangiardi said. “And so we looked at that ruling and we went through a lot of consultation on what we could and couldn’t do. We crafted a really good document on sensitive places on what we think would be wise.”

But the Honolulu City Council hasn’t scheduled a hearing yet. Maui County doesn’t have a sensitive places bill on any agenda, and Kauai county’s spokesperson told KHON2 they have “No immediate plans to do anything county specific. We continue to be part of a statewide discussion, which includes the AG’s office. Our ideal would be to have statewide uniformity.”

Gun rights advocates said they’re ready to challenge this, too, if the sensitive-places laws overreach.

“We’re seeing that the courts are ruling that these kinds of location bans need to be extremely narrow,” Roberts said. “There has traditionally been restrictions on taking firearms into places like prisons, jails, court buildings, school buildings, but should that include parks? Should it include the parking area or adjacent lots? No.”

The state attorney general’s office spokesperson told KHON2:

“Although the Court has not comprehensively defined what ‘sensitive places’ means, we believe that this concept is something worthy of careful consideration. We have discussed this issue with our colleagues at both the state and county levels and look forward to further communications with them in the future regarding it.”

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