HONOLULU (KHON2) — Within a month, hundreds of people in Hawaii could be carrying concealed guns. That’s based on applications so far at each of Hawaii’s four county police departments and each chief’s timeline for approving them.

KHON2 asked where each county is in its process of approving concealed carry permits. The police chiefs in each county have to do it, because this summer the U.S. Supreme Court said Hawaii’s laws and rules that had effectively prevented gun carrying for decades were unconstitutional.

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More than 500 people across the state have filed for a concealed carry gun permit and nine have them already in hand. They’re all within Maui County so far.

Maui has approved nine out of 31 applications received and none of the other counties have yet issued one. The Big Island and Kauai have each taken in a couple of dozen applications (22 and 20 respectively). Oahu has 436 pending.

“Once the rules are in place, and the requisite training and the restrictions on where you can carry and all that stuff goes into effect, probably most of those people who applied will be able to get them, probably upwards of 90 percent,” said Sen. Karl Rhoads, Judiciary Committee chairman. “But that’s still a tiny percentage of the population.”

Honolulu’s Police Department is holding a public hearing on Tuesday, Oct. 4 on new rules (hearing notice). The chief’s spokesperson told Always Investigating: “Testimony will be reviewed by HPD and corporation counsel. The Department anticipates issuing the first licenses before the end of the month if the rules are passed without amendment.”

It’s all happening because a July U.S. Supreme Court decision in a New York gun case reverberated to the islands, where a similar high-court challenge to Hawaii’s gun laws led to a sea change here, too. The counties must issue concealed carry permits, something police departments have taken applications for in the past but rarely approved. Fewer than half a dozen over the years.

“Under the former law, which the Supreme Court has since said was unconstitutional, we required them to give us a whole list of reasons of why they needed to carry it,” explained Kauai Police Chief Todd Raybuck.

The “why” is no longer needed, but people still have to fill out detailed application forms — which differ depending on the county — and pass gun proficiency, background, criminal history and mental health checks.

Firearms permits information and applications:

Honolulu County

Maui County

Hawaii County

Kauai County

“One of the challenges that we have here on Kauai that I’ve gotten back feedback from is that we have limited locations for individuals to be able to qualify and train for these permits,” Raybuck said.

Maui County has had challenges too, as explained by a police department spokesperson: “The main challenge our Records Section is experiencing is the additional submissions of applications and applicants calling daily for updates.”

He continued, “We understand they want to know their application status, but giving daily updates impedes the process. We humbly ask applicants to be patient, respect the 120-day timeframe and refrain from calling before the 120-day mark.” 

Big Island police said they’re very close to issuing their first permits.

“I reviewed about six total so far after the initial required checks were completed and those were sent to the Chief’s office for final review and approval,” said Lt. Tuck Loy Aurello from the Records and Identification Section. “I anticipate we may see those approved in the next week.”

Kauai’s police chief told KHON2 he’s still weeks out from issuing Kauai’s first permit under the new concealed carry process.

“I hope that within the next 14 to 30 days, we’ll have that whole review and application process and the awareness and training programs all out there,” Raybuck said. “We just want to make sure that we partner with our community and train our police officers and educate our community on how we can live together and be able to process this new day in Hawaii where we’ll have people who are carrying firearms.”

“This is the first time that we will have people who can lawfully carry firearms in public,” Raybuck added.

“And so people will be scared and worried will this mean more crime and more people causing issues with firearms. And so I think one of the things that we need to do, and what we’re working on here on Kauai, is an opportunity for us to educate our community about what do you do if you see somebody who’s carrying a firearm,” said Raybuck.

Others point out it’s still a small number of people legally allowed to carry, like those nine in Maui County.

“On Maui, if you see somebody with a gun — it depends on what they’re doing with it — you shouldn’t just automatically say, ‘well concealed carry is okay now.’ That’s only nine people,” Rhoads said, “so it’s very possible that the person you’re seeing isn’t carrying it legally and you still may want to call the police.”

According to state law, the carry permits are not valid statewide and are limited to the county in which they are issued.

So what are departments hearing from the folks applying for these permits?

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“People are concerned about the crime that’s occurring in our communities and some of the unbelievably unconscionable events that have occurred across our country, involving criminal activity and mass shooting events,” Raybuck said. “So people feel that they want to have the ability to be able to protect themselves and their family members.”