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Legal Information: Hawaii

Hawaii State Gun Laws

Laws current as of January 11, 2024

What is the difference between federal and state gun laws? Why do I need to understand both?

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?

To legally have or buy a gun in Hawaii, a person must get a permit issued by the county’s chief of police.1 You can see who can get a one in Who qualifies for a gun permit? 

In addition, Hawaii state law makes it illegal for anyone to have or buy a gun if s/he:

  1. has an order against him/her, which includes an order for protection or a gun violence protective order, that:
    • prohibits that person from contacting, threatening, or physically abusing another person; and
    • specifically includes a statement that possession of a firearm by the person named in the order is prohibited;
  2. was convicted of, or is being prosecuted for:
  3. is a fugitive from justice;
  4. cannot own a gun under federal gun laws;
  5. is or was under treatment for drug or alcohol addiction unless medical documents say s/he no longer has the addiction;
  6. was found not guilty of a crime because of a mental disorder unless medical documents say s/he no longer has the mental disorder;
  7. was diagnosed with or treated for a medical, behavioral, psychological, emotional, or mental condition or disorder that causes or is likely to cause impairment in judgment, perception, or impulse control so much that it presents an unreasonable risk to public health, safety, or welfare of others unless medical documents say s/he no longer has these conditions; 
  8. was determined by a judge to:
    • meet the criteria for involuntary hospitalization; or
    • be an “incapacitated person,” as defined by law;
  9. is under 25 and committed one of the following crimes as a juvenile offender:
    • a felony;
    • a “crime of violence,” as defined above in #2;
    • a criminal offense relating to firearms; or
    • an illegal sale or distribution of any drug;
  10. is under 18 and:
    • is being treated for addiction to a dangerous drug unless medical documents say that s/he no longer has the addiction;
    • is a fugitive from justice;
    • was not legally responsible for a crime because of a mental disorder unless medical documents say that s/he no longer has the mental disorder; or
    • was committed to an institution because of a mental disorder, disease, or defect unless medical documents that s/he no longer has the mental disorder.2

If any of these situations apply to the abuser, it may be illegal for him/her to have a gun. Federal laws, which apply to all states, can also 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)
2 Haw. Rev. Stat. § 134-7
3 Haw. Rev. Stat. § 134-1

Who qualifies for a gun permit?

To legally have or buy a gun in Hawaii, a person must get a permit issued by the county’s chief of police.1 A person may qualify for a gun permit if s/he does not any of the categories that make gun possession illegal and s/he is:

  • a U.S. citizen, national, or lawful permanent resident who is at least 21 years old;
  • an official representative of a foreign nation; or
  • an immigrant (“alien”) who is:
    • a law enforcement officer;
    • age 18 or older and s/he has a hunting license; in this case, the permit only allows the person to use a rifle and shotgun for some time up to 60 days; or
    • age 21 or older and s/he is training for a specific organized sport-shooting contest; in this case, the permit is only for some time up to six months.2

However, even if someone meets the requirements listed above, the police can still deny a gun permit if they believe that it is not in the interest of public health, safety, or welfare because “the person lacks the essential character or temperament necessary to be entrusted with a firearm.” The police must consider if the person poses a danger of causing a self-inflicted bodily injury or an unlawful injury to someone else, which can be proven by:

  • information from a health care provider showing that the person has had suicidal or homicidal thoughts or tendencies within the past five years;
  • statements or actions by the person that show a dangerous propensity or violent hatred (“animus”) toward one or more individuals or groups, including groups based on race, color, national origin, ancestry, sex, gender identity, gender expression, sexual orientation, age, disability, religion, or any other characteristic; 
  • other information that would lead a reasonable, objective observer to conclude that this person having a firearm presents or would present a danger to the community; or
  • information that the person intends to or is likely to use a firearm for an unlawful purpose or in an unlawful way.3

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