LIHUE — A United Kingdom citizen who is a permanent legal resident of the United States is challenging Hawaii gun laws.
Attorneys representing Andrew Roberts, a Honolulu resident and director for the Hawaii Firearms Coalition, filed a federal lawsuit Tuesday, alleging a state law prohibiting non-United States citizens from getting gun licenses is unconstitutional.
Roberts moved to Hawaii from England 12 years ago and established legal residency in the state. When he went to the Honolulu Police Department to inquire about obtaining a license to carry a firearm in November, Roberts learned that only U.S. citizens were allowed to apply. So he decided to sue.
This is not Roberts’ first time challenging Hawaii firearm statutes. A federal lawsuit filed on his behalf in 2015 successfully fought an HPD policy that required non-citizen residents applying for a gun ownership license to provide additional documentation from their country of origin.
Roberts sued again in 2018, this time challenging the state’s laws banning civilians from owning stun guns and Tasers. Exactly one year later, with a decision in his 2018 lawsuit still pending, Roberts once again took legal action against the state.
On Tuesday, his attorneys filed a civil complaint in U.S. District Court in Honolulu, naming the state’s attorney general and the state sheriff division administrator, claiming Hawaii statutes governing the right to carry gun in public unfairly discriminate against legal permanent residents like himself.
The new lawsuit alleges that Hawaii statutes restricting gun ownership on the basis of citizenship are unconstitutional denials of equal protection rights covered by the Fourteenth Amendment.
In an interview Wednesday, Roberts said his litigious efforts against the state are nothing more than his attempts to ensure that Hawaii’s legal aliens are granted the same Second Amendment rights as everyone else.
“The law is clearly in violation of the Constitution,” he said. “This is just the process we have to go through in order to change it.”
Roberts said he started the Hawaii Firearms Coalition with a group of friends after getting involved in America’s gun control debate through his 2015 lawsuit. He said that case, along with his two current pending civil claims, are part of a legal battle he is waging on behalf of the roughly 25,000 other legal aliens who live in Hawaii.
“This isn’t just affecting me, it’s affecting 24,999 other people,” he said. “If I have the ability to fix it and I don’t, why would I expect anyone to do anything for me in the future?”
Hawaii has some of the strongest gun laws in the nation. It is the only state that requires firearms to be registered at a statewide level, which is done through county police departments. Hawaii’s permit allows someone to purchase a firearm, transport it to limited places such as shooting ranges or gunsmiths, or use it for hunting.
Prior to 2014, Hawaii only granted permits to own a firearm to U.S. citizens, until a federal judge in Honolulu ruled that the state’s statute was unconstitutional.
Caleb Loehrer, staff writer, can be reached at 245-0441 or email@example.com.