Article VIII, § 2 of the Hawaii Constitution provides that “[e]ach political subdivision shall have the power to frame and adopt a charter for its own self-government within such limits and under such procedures as may be provided by general law.” Section 6 of Article VIII provides that nothing contained in the Article shall “limit the power of the legislature to enact laws of statewide concern.” In addition, Hawaii Revised Statutes Annotated § 46-1.5(13) provides that:

Each county shall have the power to enact ordinances deemed necessary to protect health, life, and property, and to preserve the order and security of the county and its inhabitants on any subject or matter not inconsistent with, or tending to defeat, the intent of any state statute, where the statute does not disclose an express or implied intent that the statute shall be exclusive or uniform throughout the State.

There are no statutes or cases specifically addressing whether local governments are authorized to regulate firearms in Hawaii. However, the Supreme Court of Hawaii has set forth the general framework for determining when state law preempts local law. In Richardson v. City and County of Honolulu1, the court noted that the California Supreme Court had synthesized the general principles governing preemption in Sherwin-Williams v. City of Los Angeles2, as follows:

  • If otherwise valid local legislation conflicts with state law, it is preempted by such law and is void.
  • A conflict exists if the local legislation duplicates, contradicts, or enters an area fully occupied by general law, either expressly or by legislative implication.
  • Local legislation is ‘duplicative’ of general law when it is coextensive therewith.
  • Similarly, local legislation is ‘contradictory’ to general law when it is inimical thereto.
  • Finally, local legislation enters an area that is ‘fully occupied’ by general law when the Legislature has expressly manifested its intent to ‘fully occupy’ the area, or when it has impliedly done so.

The Richardson court concluded that a municipal ordinance may be preempted by state law if: “(1) it covers the same subject matter embraced within a comprehensive state statutory scheme disclosing an express or implied intent to be exclusive and uniform throughout the state or (2) it conflicts with state law.”3

See the Hawaii Immunity Statutes section for information regarding lawsuits by local governments against the gun industry.

  1. 868 P.2d 1193 (Haw. 1994) ⤴︎
  2. 844 P.2d 534, 539-40 Cal. 1993) ⤴︎
  3. Richardson, 868 P.2d at 1209. ⤴︎