Last Updated: May 13, 2018
Disclaimer: While the information provided here is legal in nature, it is not to be construed as legal advice, and is for educational and entertainment purposes only.
When it comes to being a responsible gun owner, it can be a little tricky keeping track of all the latest gun laws of your state, not to mention the laws on the federal level.
While Hawaii isn’t nearly as strict when it comes to gun laws as states such as California or New York, there are still plenty of laws you’ll need to be aware if you want to be a legal and responsible gun owner.
Luckily for you, we’ve got everything you need to know to navigate the maze of gun laws Hawaii has in store for you, and we’ll have you out protecting your freedoms in no time!
How to buy a handgun
Like some of the less gun-friendly states in the US, Hawaii has a few hoops you’ll have to jump through before you can purchase a firearm, with handguns being slightly more difficult to purchase than long guns.
In order to purchase a handgun, you must:
- Be 21 or older;
- Provide ID; and
- Have a “permit to acquire”
Asking for permission
To buy a firearm, you’ll need a purchase permit, known as a “permit to acquire”. Getting the permit to acquire itself involves a couple steps as well, and is required for all firearms, regardless of whether the firearm is an antique, or even if it is not usable or serviceable!
Our extra observant readers will also notice that it is a “permit to acquire”, and not just a purchase permit. That’s because you need the permit beyond just buying a firearm from your local gun store or even from a private seller. If you ever want to take ownership of a handgun, whether it is through a sale, a gift, or if it is passed down from family members, you are required to have a permit to acquire.
Once you decide you’re ready to jump through the hoops of getting a firearm to exercise your Second Amendment rights, you will need to head to your local police station in the county where you live, where you work, or where you are temporarily living (apartment, etc.), and apply with the chief of police in person.
To actually get a permit to acquire, you must:
- Be 21 or older;
- Be a US citizen;
- Provide the name, address, and telephone number of the person transferring the firearm to you (the seller, if you are purchasing the firearm);
- Sign a mental health waiver;
- Sign a medical information waiver;
- Agree to a background check;
- Provide an original hunter’s education card; and
- Provide documentation of proof of US citizenship, if you were born outside the US.
The mental health and medical information waivers essentially allow the police to access your otherwise confidential health records to check if you have any history or are currently suffering from conditions that they consider as conditions which would make you unsuitable for owning and using firearms.
In addition to those basic requirements, you’ll also need to make sure you don’t fall into any of the categories that would prohibit you from owning a firearm in general.
You will be disqualified from getting a permit to acquire if you:
- Are a fugitive from justice or prohibited from possessing or controlling firearms or ammo under federal law (well, yeah);
- Are under indictment, or have been convicted of a felony, crime of violence, or illegal sale of drugs;
- Are or have been under treatment or counseling for addiction to, abuse of, or dependence upon any dangerous, harmful, or detrimental drug, intoxicating compounds, or liquor;
- Have been acquitted of a crime on the grounds of mental disease or disorder;
- Is or have been diagnosed with behavioral, emotional, or mental disorders; or
- Are the subject of a restraining order.
If you are denied a permit for any of these reasons, the county police where you applied for the permit will notify you of the reasons for denial. You may also be required to transfer all your firearms and ammo to a dealer or turn them in within 30 days of the denial too.
Specifically relating to handguns, when applying for a permit to acquire, if you do not have a hunter’s education card, you can provide your Handgun Safety Training Course Affidavit instead, which should be provided by any handgun or firearms training course taken in the state.
You’ll also need to be careful when filling out your permit to acquire application if you are looking to get a handgun because you need to list the specific make, model, caliber, type, barrel length, and the serial number of the handgun you plan on purchasing (or will be receiving).
Finally, you need to have a separate permit to acquire for each handgun you plan to receive (from a transfer or a sale), so you need to be extra sure about the handgun you want before you go through the entire application process.
Not from around here
If you are not a US citizen, you can still obtain and use firearms, in very limited situations.
To obtain a non-citizen permit to acquire, you must:
- Be 21 or older; and
- Provide evidence you will are training for a specific organized-sport shooting contest.
In addition to those requirements, your permit to acquire will only be good for six months, and the shooting contest must take place during those six months.
The waiting game
Once you’ve filled out the permit to acquire application, you’ll need to wait 14 days before you can pick up the permit (assuming it goes through). You’ll then have 6 days to pick up the permit, before it is canceled. Once your 6 days are up, you’ll need to apply all over again for another permit.
An additional catch when it comes to handgun permits to acquire is that they are only valid for 10 days from the date of issue. What that means is you need to go pick up the permit the day it is granted so you can run to your local gun store and use the permit to buy your handgun. If you wait too long, you’ll need to do the process all over again (and pay all the fees again too).
Not to be outdone by California or New York, Hawaii decided to have their own “assault weapon” definition when it comes to firearms. Hawaii prohibits ownership and use of “assault pistols”. Yeah.
An “assault pistol”, as defined by Hawaii, is a semi-automatic pistol which accepts a detachable magazine and has two or more of:
- A magazine that attaches to the pistol outside of the pistol grip;
- A threaded barrel capable of accepting a barrel extender, flash suppressor, forward handgrip, or silencer;
- A shroud attached to partially/completely encircles the barrel, and allows the shooter to hold the firearm with a second hand without being burned;
- A manufactured weight of fifty ounces or more when the pistol is unloaded;
- A centerfire pistol with an overall length of 12 inches or more; or
- Is a semiautomatic version of an automatic firearm.
What this basically means is that 1) Hawaii likes to make up random firearms categories, and 2) you should leave your handgun as it is, and get a long gun for your rifle needs. No pistol-caliber carbines in Hawaii.
Speaking of long guns
Once you decide to power through all the roadblocks Hawaii has placed in your way to getting a handgun, you might as well go ahead and get a couple long guns while you’re at it. Luckily, the process for getting a long gun is not as bad as the one for handguns. Instead of getting punched in the face 10 times, it’s only about 6-8 punches.
To buy a long gun, you must:
- Be 21 or older;
- Provide ID; and
- Have a permit to acquire.
The process for getting the permit to acquire is the same as with handguns, but you only need a single permit to acquire to buy as many long guns as your wallet (or wife) will allow. You also don’t need to run to your local gun store immediately after you get the permit, because each permit to acquire is good for one year from the date of issue.
What about the children???
It’s never too early to start defending your freedom, even in anti-gun states like Hawaii. If you are under 18, you can use firearms in certain situations, but you must be 18 or older to own firearms, regardless of whether it is usable or not.
If you are 16, or are under 16 but are accompanied by an adult, you can carry a rifle or shotgun while hunting or traveling to/from where you are hunting. Of course, you’ll need to have a hunting license if you are going hunting.
If you are target shooting (i.e. at the range), you can also practice without having to get a permit first.
Anyone under 18 can borrow a rifle or handgun for target practice at the range without a permit. If you are under 16, an adult will have to be present to accompany you the entire time. The firearm is only allowed to be used during the practice session though, and cannot be taken anywhere else or used outside of target practice.
Once you’ve got your firearms, you’ll need to be careful how you carry them around town. Open carry of handguns is technically allowed in Hawaii, however getting a permit to do so is nearly impossible.
To get an open carry permit, you must:
- Be 21 or older;
- Be a US citizen; and
- Provide evidence of a reason to fear for injury to person or property.
In practice, you basically will never be issued an open carry permit, but it doesn’t mean you can’t try!
There are no laws prohibiting open carry of long guns in the state, so you are free to do so if you’d like. Just keep in mind, with all the hoops the state makes you jump through just to be allowed to purchase and own firearms, you may not get the warmest reception from local law enforcement walking around with that shotty strapped to your back.
Even more difficult to obtain than the open carry permit is the concealed carry permit.
To qualify for a concealed carry permit, you must:
- Be 21 or older;
- Be a US citizen; and
- Show reason to fear injury to your person or property.
Just like with open carry permits, Hawaii basically never issues concealed carry permits. The case is actually being argued in the courts due to Hawaii’s effective “no-issue” policy, but while it works its way through the courts, the state is allowed to continue denying your Second Amendment rights.
For those of you itching for a challenge, check out our Hawaii CCW laws section for an in-depth guide to applying for a CCW and the additional laws you’ll need to know if you do manage to get that permit.
Since you can’t actually carry your firearms anywhere except at the range and while hunting, you might as well be familiar with the laws on transporting your guns.
When transporting your firearms and ammo, they must be in enclosed containers. At the very least, the firearm needs to be in a rigid, lockable container. However, if you choose to go with a commercial gun container, the only requirement is that it must completely enclose the gun. This includes any of those fancy Pelican cases everyone’s got, but also any commercially produced gun sock as well!
And for those of you wonder what “unloaded” means, there must be no ammo in the chamber, cylinder, or magazine (if inserted in the firearm).
It wouldn’t be Hawaii without mandatory registration of all firearms!
Every firearm in the state must be registered within 5 days of obtaining the firearm (i.e. from your local gun store), or 5 days of arrival in the state. That means, if you decide to move to the beautiful islands of Hawaii and bring your guns with you, you’ll need to make sure to register every single one of the guns with the chief of police of the county where you live or work.
If you are just visiting Hawaii and brought your firearms with you, you will need to have temporary registration of your firearms. In addition, you must have:
- A valid Hawaii hunting license or commercial or private shooting preserve permit;
- A written document indicating you have been invited to shoot on private land; or
- Written notification from a firing range or target shooting business indicating you will engage in target shooting.
In other words, if you are just visiting on vacation and want to bring your trusty sidearm with you, that’s a no go.
Like any good law, there’s always a loophole! Not all firearms have to be registered with the state. Only the fun ones.
Registration is not required for:
- Firearms that are designed to shoot loose black powder, or were manufactured before 1899;
- Any device not designed to fire or made incapable of being readily restored to a firing condition; or
- Unserviceable firearms and destructive devices registered with the ATF.
New in town
For those of you in the military who are PCSing to Hawaii, congrats! It’s a great place to be and you’ll never run out of things to do! The downside is you’ll have to jump through a couple hoops if you plan on bringing your personal firearms with you.
You will need to register your firearms within 5 days of transferring them to the state. Make sure you bring all of them, unloaded and in an enclosed container to your local police station. It’s a good idea to leave all ammo at home so you only bring your firearms with you when you register.
The actual process itself is pretty straightforward, with an inspection of the guns, verification of your ID, and fingerprinting to have all of your firearms registered into the system. Of course, you’ll need to check the rules above to make sure the firearms you bring into the state are actually permitted!
All of the mag capacity restrictions, and especially the “assault pistol” prohibitions apply to anything you plan on bringing into the state, so you’ll want to double (and triple) check to make sure they’re Hawaii-friendly. Otherwise, they’ll need to stay out-of-state.
One thing to keep in mind is that if you register your firearms, it is essentially impossible to “un-register”, so it may not be worth the hassle to bring your firearms with you to Hawaii. Leaving them with family or friends out of state may be a better option. There aren’t too many public ranges in Hawaii, and they’re pretty anti-gun as it is. But if you’ve got a couple range toys you can’t live without, you’ll just need to make sure you get them registered ASAP.
For those of you planning to live in the military or privatized on-base housing, you’ll need to register your firearms with the security office of the base you are on. This involves bringing a valid military ID card and proof of firearm registration with Hawaii Police, and proof of residence in the housing area.
It’s a lot to remember, but fortunately, the actual process isn’t too complicated at all. Just make sure you’ve got everything ready to go and you can fly through registration and have your trusty guns with you in the Aloha State!
Before you run off to your local gun store and start picking out which handgun to buy, you’ll need to keep in mind that detachable pistol magazines are limited to 10 rounders. Even though that shiny new Glock in the display case can hold 17 rounds in a free state, Hawaii will only allow for 10 round magazines (because it’s…safer?).
Once you’ve got all your firearms picked out and ready to go, don’t forget to feed them. Ammo can be purchased online, but it might not be worth the shipping costs to ship them all the way out to Hawaii, and you are probably better off just buying your ammo from your local gun store. Let them worry about the shipping issues, and you just worry about having enough ammo to practice with!
Actually using your firearms
Aside from hunting, firearms are also pretty good at the whole self-defense thing. Surprisingly, Hawaii does allow for the use of deadly force in defending yourself. In certain situations that is.
Protecting your castle
Under what is commonly referred to as the “Castle Doctrine”, Hawaii allows you to defend yourself with deadly force when you are in your home (aka your castle), or your workplace.
You are justified in using deadly force if you believe it is necessary to protect against death, serious bodily injury, kidnapping, rape, or forcible sodomy.
It is important to keep in mind, however, that you are not justified in defending yourself in this way if you are the one who provoked the situation. In other words, punching a guy and then shooting him once he decides to retaliate is not a justified use of deadly force.
Standing your ground
While you are allowed to protect yourself when inside your home. When you are out on the town, that is a different matter completely.
Use of deadly force is not justifiable if you know you can avoid using the deadly force by retreating with complete safety, surrendering an item demanded by the other person, or complying with a demand to not do something (that you aren’t legally required to do anyway).
What this means is that if you are at a restaurant and run into a situation where you are threatened with serious bodily injury, you have a duty to retreat if it’s possible to do so safely, or to give in to the demands of the person threatening you with harm. Better to let the police handle the situation and avoid harm to yourself if possible.
Of course, even with all these laws on self-defense, you should always use your best judgment to decide what type of force is appropriate. Just because you are allowed to use deadly force doesn’t mean you have to. Taking any life is always a serious decision, and may not always be necessary in order to end a threat to you and your loved ones.
And that’s it! You’ve now got all the information you need to be a responsible gun owner in the state of Hawaii!
Don’t forget to check out our CCW section if you’re curious about exactly just how hard it is to get a concealed carry permit in the state.
For those of you with more realistic expectations, just focus on getting your hands on as many shiny new toys as you can and practice, practice, practice! You’ll also need to have a safe place to keep all your firearms too, though.
Hawaii law considers a firearm owner liable for personal injury or property damage caused by the discharge of his firearm unless the firearm was stolen and reported stolen, or the discharge was legally justified. This means you want to keep your guns safely locked up so only you have access to them.
A firearm must be locked up or reasonably secured unless carried on your person or in such close proximity that you can readily retrieve it as if it were on your person. A nice sturdy safe, or even just a basic gun cabinet or handgun safe should do the trick. Once your guns start multiplying, take a look at the bigger safes we recommend to give your guns a nice place to sleep at night.
Now get out there and start your collection! Those guns aren’t going to buy themselves!