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Información Legal: Hawái

Hawái: State Gun Laws

State Gun Laws

Basic Info and Definitions

¿Cuál es la diferencia entre leyes sobre armas de fuego federales y estatales? ¿Por qué necesito entender ambos?

In these gun laws pages, we refer to both “federal gun laws” and “state gun laws.” The major difference between the two has to do with who makes the law, who prosecutes someone who violates the law, and what the penalty is for breaking the law.

One reason why it is important for you to know that there are these two sets of gun laws is so that you can understand all of the possible ways that the abuser might be breaking the law, and you can better protect yourself. Throughout this section, we will be referring mostly to state laws. Be sure to also read our Federal Gun Laws pages to see if any federal laws apply to your situation as well. You will need to read both state and federal laws to see which ones, if any, the abuser might be violating.

If you are calling the police because you believe the abuser has violated a gun law, you do not necessarily need to be able to tell the police which law was violated (state versus federal) but local police cannot arrest someone for violating federal law, only for violating state/local laws. Only federal law enforcement, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (“ATF”), can arrest someone for violating federal laws. If the local police believe that a state law is being violated, they could arrest the abuser and hand the case over to the state prosecutor. If the local police believe a federal law is being violated, hopefully, the police department will notify the ATF or perhaps the U.S. Attorney’s office in your state (which is the federal prosecutor). For information on how you can contact ATF directly to report the violation of federal gun laws, go to Who do I notify if I think the abuser should not have a gun? If the abuser is breaking both state and federal laws, s/he might be prosecuted in both state and federal court.

What is the definition of a felony?

Throughout these gun law pages, we will refer to gun laws that make it illegal for someone convicted of a felony to have a gun. A felony is a more serious crime than a misdemeanor. In Hawaii, a felony is a crime that is punishable by imprisonment for more than one year or any crime that is listed as a felony in Hawaii’s criminal laws.1

However, you cannot always tell if someone was convicted of a felony only by looking at the amount of time s/he actually served in prison since sentences are often reduced or pled down. If you are unsure if the abuser was convicted of a felony, you might want to talk to the prosecutor who handled the criminal case against the abuser to find out or go to the courthouse and search the conviction records.

1 Haw. Rev. Stat. § 701-107(2)

I am a victim of domestic violence and the abuser has a gun. Is that legal?

Under Hawaii law, a person cannot have or buy a gun unless s/he has a permit issued by the chief of police in his/her county. To qualify for a permit, a person:

  • has to be 21 years or older, unless s/he is 18 or over and has a valid hunter’s license;
  • must have completed an approved safety course;
  • has to be a United States citizen, a legal permanent resident, or other qualified immigrant (called a “qualified alien” in the law); and
  • must not be otherwise disqualified for one of the reasons mentioned below.1

Hawaii state law says that a person cannot have or buy a gun if s/he:

  • is subject to an order that says the person cannot contact, threaten, or physically abuse the protected person, which includes an order for protection or a gun violence protective order;
  • has been convicted of, or has charges pending, in Hawaii or another state, for:
    • a felony;
    • any crime of violence2 (an offense that involves injury or the threat of injury)3; or
    • an illegal sale of any drug;
  • is a fugitive from justice;
  • cannot own a gun under federal gun laws;
  • is or has been under treatment for addiction to a dangerous drug or alcohol, unless the person has been medically documented to no longer have the addiction;
  • has been found not guilty of a crime because of a mental disorder, unless the person has been medically documented to no longer have the mental disorder;
  • has been diagnosed with a serious behavioral, emotional, or mental disorder, unless the person has been medically documented to no longer have the mental disorder;
  • is under 25 and was found by a family court, as a juvenile, to have committed:
    • a felony;
    • two or more crimes of violence, or
    • an illegal sale of any drug;
  • is under 18 and:
    • is under treatment for addiction to a dangerous drug, unless the person has been medically documented to no longer have the addiction;
    • is a fugitive from justice;
    • has been determined to not be responsible for a crime because of a mental disorder, unless the person has been medically documented to no longer have the mental disorder; or
    • has been committed to an institution due to a mental disorder, disease, or defect, unless the person has been medically documented to no longer have the mental disorder.2

If any of these situations apply to the abuser, it may be illegal for him/her to have a gun. Also, federal laws, which apply to all states, may restrict an abuser’s right to have a gun. Go to Federal Gun Laws to get more information.

1 Haw. Rev. Stat. § 134-2(a), (d)
2 Haw. Rev. Stat. § 134-7
3 Haw. Rev. Stat. § 134-1

Guns and Orders for Protection

I have a temporary order against the abuser. Can s/he have or buy a gun?

The law says that anyone who has a court order against them that says that the abuser cannot contact, threaten, or physically abuse the petitioner cannot have, control, or transfer any gun or ammunition.1 The abuser will have to give any guns that s/he has to law enforcement to hold onto while the order is active or s/he could be charged with a misdemeanor.2 If you temporary order has these restrictions, then the abuser likely cannot have a gun.

However, if there is a good reason shown for the abuser to have a gun and the temporary order specifically allows possession of a firearm, then the abuser may be allowed to have a gun.1

1 Haw. Rev. Stat. § 134-7(f)
2 Haw. Rev. Stat. § 134-7(g)

I have an order for protection against the abuser. Can s/he have a gun or buy a gun?

In Hawaii, if an order for protection says that the abuser cannot contact, threaten, or physically abuse you, then the abuser cannot have, control, or transfer any gun or ammunition. The abuser will have to give any guns s/he has to law enforcement to hold onto while the order is active or s/he could be charged with a misdemeanor.1

Additionally, if an abuser is not allowed to have a gun under federal gun laws, which may restrict an abuser’s ability to have a gun when a protection order is in place, then s/he cannot legally have or buy a gun under Hawaii’s laws.2

1 Haw. Rev. Stat. § 134-7(f), (g)
2 Haw. Rev. Stat. § 134-7(a)

Is there anything I can do to make it more likely that the abuser's gun is taken away when I get an order for protection?

Depending on the judge in your case, there may be some things you can do to increase the chances that the judge will require that an abuser’s guns are taken away. Keep in mind these tips may or may not result in the outcome that you are hoping for. Every judge is different. However, here are a few suggestions that may help:

  • If the abuser has a gun, tell the judge how many guns s/he has, and if s/he has ever shown you the guns or displayed them as a way to intimidate you and maintain control over you.
  • Ask the judge to specifically write in your order for protection that the abuser cannot own, buy or have a gun while the order is in effect. The form that you will have to fill out to petition for an order for protection will have a place where you can request additional protections. You can ask that the abuser’s gun(s) be taken away in that section.
  • It also may be helpful if the judge explains what will happen to the abuser’s guns, who will take them, and where they will be held once you leave the courthouse. If the judge agrees to add language that the abuser cannot keep his/her guns while the order for protection is in effect, you may also want to ask that the judge:
    • require the abuser to give his/her guns to the police, or require the police to go to the abuser’s house and get them;
    • make it clear to both you and the abuser how long the guns will be kept away from the abuser; and
    • order that the police notify you when the guns are returned to the abuser.
  • If the gun restriction is granted, check to make sure that it is written on your order before leaving the courthouse.

Guns and Criminal Convictions

If the abuser has been convicted of a crime, can s/he keep or buy a gun?

Hawaii state law says that a person cannot have or buy a gun if s/he:

  • has been convicted of, or has charges pending for:
    • a felony;
    • any crime of violence1 (an offense that involves injury or the threat of injury)2; or
    • an illegal sale of any drug;
  • has been found not guilty of a crime because of a mental disorder, unless the person has been medically documented to no longer have the mental disorder;
  • is under 25 and was found by a family court to have committed:
    • a felony;
    • two or more crimes of violence; or
    • an illegal sale of any drug; or
  • is a fugitive from justice.1

Also, federal laws, which apply to all states, restrict a person’s right to have a gun under certain circumstances. Go to Federal Gun Laws to get more information.

1 Haw. Rev. Stat. § 134-7(a), (b), (d)
2 Haw. Rev. Stat. § 134-1

How can I find out if the abuser has been convicted of a crime?

Misdemeanor and felony records are open to the public, but they are not always easy to access. If you know the exact courthouse where the abuser may have been convicted, you can go to the courthouse and ask the clerk of court for access to those records.

Domestic violence misdemeanor and felony records are also kept in the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS). However, no one other than law enforcement officials and licensed firearm sellers are allowed to search the NICS. Your local police department may be willing to search NICS for you if you ask, but they are not required to do so.

To read more about the NICS, please see What will happen if the abuser tries to purchase a gun?

The Abuser Isn't Supposed to Have a Gun...Now What?

If the abuser's gun is taken away, what will happen to it?

If the judge orders that the abuser’s gun be taken away as part of an order for protection, s/he will have to give up any guns in his/her possession and will have to surrender any other guns to the law enforcement agency in his/her county.1 When the order for protection expires, the abuser may be able to go to the law enforcement agency that took the guns to get them back.

Even if there is not an order for protection in place, a police officer may take a gun away from an abuser for up to seven days if the officer believes that it was recently used to threaten or assault a family or household member. The police department that took the gun will hold the gun for longer than seven days if:

  • criminal charges are filed against the abuser;
  • the abuser had the gun illegally;
  • the gun or ammunition is going to be used as evidence; or
  • there is an active order for protection against the abuser.2

Also, if an abuser applies for a gun permit but is denied or if s/he becomes disqualified to have a gun at any point, s/he must:

  • surrender his/her guns to law enforcement within 30 days; or
  • get rid of the guns by:
    • selling them to a licensed gun dealer; or
    • giving or selling them to another person who has a permit to have a gun.3

However, if the reason that the abuser is disqualified from having a gun is due to an order for protection being issued, then the abuser has to surrender his/her guns to law enforcement within 48 hours, and s/he may not be able to give or sell the gun to a licensed dealer or to another person.4

1 Haw. Rev. Stat. § 134-7(f)
2 Haw. Rev. Stat. § 134-7.5(a), (d)
3 Haw. Rev. Stat. § 134-7.3
4 Haw. Rev. Stat. § 134-7.3(b), (d)

Who do I notify if I think the abuser should not have a gun?

If you think the abuser is violating state firearm laws, you can call your local police or sheriff department or the State Police. If you think the abuser is violating federal firearm laws, you can call the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF).

You can find contact information for sheriff departments in your area on our HI Sheriff Departments page.

You can find ATF field offices in Hawaii on the ATF website. For reporting illegal firearm activity, a person can also call 1-800-ATF-GUNS (1-800-283-4867). Many ATF offices have victim advocates on staff (called “victim/witness coordinators”) and so perhaps you may ask to speak one of these advocates if you are having a hard time connecting with (or receiving a call back from) an ATF officer.

A local domestic violence organization in your area may also be able to answer your questions and assist you in talking to the necessary law enforcement officials. You will find contact information for organizations in your area on our HI Advocates and Shelters page.

Note: Generally, the abuser does not have to have knowledge of the law in order to be arrested for breaking the law. If the abuser has or buys a gun in violation of the law, the abuser can be arrested, whether or not s/he knows that s/he was in violation of the law.1

1United States v. Lippman, 369 F. 3d 1039 (8th Cir. 2004); United States v. Henson, 55 F. Supp. 2d 528 (S.D. W.V. 1999)

What is the penalty for violating state firearm laws?

Under Hawaii law, if a convicted felon possesses a gun, s/he is guilty of a class B felony. A person is guilty of a class C felony if s/he has a gun even though s/he is restricted from owning a firearm because s/he:

  • is not able to own a gun under federal gun laws;
  • is a fugitive from justice; or
  • has a felony charge pending.1

Any other person who possesses a gun or ammunition illegally is guilty of a misdemeanor.1

A class B felony is punishable by up to ten years in prison, a fine of up to $25,000, or both. A class C felony is punishable by up to five years in prison, a fine of up to $10,000, or both.3 A misdemeanor is punishable by up to one year in jail, a fine of up to $2,000, or both.4

1 Haw. Rev. Stat. § 134-7(h)
2 Haw. Rev. Stat. §§ 706-640(b); 706-660(a)
3 Haw. Rev. Stat. §§ 706-640(c); 706-660(b)
4 Haw. Rev. Stat. §§ 701-107(3); 706-640(d)

What will happen if the abuser tries to purchase a gun?

Before purchasing a gun from a licensed firearm dealer, all buyers must undergo a criminal background check that is processed through the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS). The National Instant Criminal Background Check System is used by federal firearms licensees (FFLs), such as firearms dealers or pawnbrokers, to instantly determine whether someone is eligible to receive (own, possess, transport) firearms or explosives.1 If the abuser has a qualifying protection order against him/her, or has been convicted of a felony or domestic violence misdemeanor in any state, those records should be in the NICS, which should prevent the abuser from legally buying a gun. Not all states have automated record keeping systems, making it more difficult to process the criminal background check, and some criminals and abusers do slip through the system. Also, it is important to know that background checks are not required for private and online gun sales and so in those situations, the seller is not looking in the NICS.

If the abuser is able to purchase a gun and you believe that s/he should not be able to have one under the law, you can alert the police, and ask that his/her gun be taken away and perhaps the police will investigate. Generally, it is not a good idea to assume that because the abuser was able to buy a gun, it is legal for him/her to have one.

1National Criminal Justice Reference Service website

More Information and Where to Get Help

I do not have a protective order against the abuser, and s/he has not been convicted of a crime. Can s/he have a gun?

Even if you do not have a protective order against the abuser and s/he has not been convicted of any crime, Hawaii state law makes it illegal to buy or have a firearm if a person does not have a permit. To qualify for a permit, a person:

  • has to be 21 years or older, unless they are 18 or over and have a valid hunter’s license;
  • must have completed an approved safety course;
  • has to be a United States Citizen or a qualified alien; and
  • must not be otherwise disqualified for one of the reasons mentioned below.1

Also, Hawaii state law says that a person cannot have or buy a gun if s/he:

  • is a fugitive from justice;
  • is or has been under treatment for addiction to a dangerous drug, unless the person has been medically documented to no longer have the addiction;
  • has been found not guilty of a crime because of a mental disorder, unless the person has been medically documented to no longer have the mental disorder;
  • has been diagnosed with a serious behavioral, emotional, or mental disorder, unless the person has been medically documented to no longer have the mental disorder;
  • is under 25 and was found by a family court, as a juvenile, to have committed:
    • a felony;
    • two or more crimes of violence, or
    • an illegal sale of any drug;
  • is under 18 and:
    • is under treatment for addiction to a dangerous drug, unless the person has been medically documented to no longer have the addiction;
    • is a fugitive from justice;
    • has been determined to not be responsible for a crime because of a mental disorder, unless the person has been medically documented to no longer have the mental disorder; or
    • has been committed to an institution due to a mental disorder, disease, or defect, unless the person has been medically documented to no longer have the mental disorder.2

If none of these situations apply, you can still make a plan for your safety. See our Safety Tips page for more information. You can also contact your local domestic violence organization for additional help. You may want to talk to them about whether leaving the area - either long term or for a little while - might help improve your safety. See our HI Advocates and Shelters page to find a local domestic violence organization near you.

For additional information on gun laws in Hawaii, you can go to the Giffords Law Center website.

Also, federal laws, which apply to all states, restrict an abuser’s right to have a gun under other circumstances. Go to Federal Gun Laws to get more information.

1 Haw. Rev. Stat. § 134-2(a), (d)
2 Haw. Rev. Stat. § 134-7

I've read through all of this information, and I am still confused. What can I do?

Trying to understand both federal and state law can be confusing, but there are people out there who can help you better understand the law and your rights under the law.

  • You can contact the National Center on Protection Orders and Full Faith & Credit to get more information about the federal firearm law and how it applies to you: 1-800-903-0111, ext. 2.
  • You can contact a local domestic violence organization in your area - see our HI Advocates and Shelters page.
  • You can write to our Email Hotline.