Straight from the department of “you can’t make this sh** up,” the Hawaii Supreme Court appears to now be simply making their laws up out of some Maui Wowi-induced vibe after they head-scratchingly declared that the “Spirit of Aloha” trumps what they see as a Second Amendment that doesn’t apply to their island state. Christopher Wilson, the defendant in this legal dramedy, found himself on the wrong side of a court that apparently consults its cultural roots more eagerly than its constitutional texts.
Wilson, who was presumably just enjoying a scenic stroll through the West Maui Mountains with a 10mm handgun in his possession was arrested on December 7, 2017. His crime? Carrying a gun without a permit (and apparently ammo too, which was a second charge), an apparently shocking act in a state where the only acceptable forms of defense are presumably shaka signs and good vibes.
Wilson’s legal saga began when his lawyers moved to dismiss the charges arguing they violated his Second Amendment rights when viewed in the context of the Supreme Court’s ruling in New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen. The lower court granted the motion on that basis, but the state appealed the ruling citing Wilson didn’t apply for a carry permit as the state requires.
Citing the island’s history as an independent kingdom and the radical notion that muskets from 1791 weren’t designed for modern mass shootings, the state Supreme Court performed a legal hula dance around the Second Amendment. They concluded, with a straight face, that in Hawaii, there’s no constitutional right to carry firearms in public. This interpretation is as imaginative as it is befuddling, suggesting that perhaps the court consulted a crystal ball rather than legal precedent.
In its judgment, the court essentially argued that the Second Amendment’s references to a “well-regulated militia” and the right to “bear arms” were quaint relics of a bygone era, best left to history books and passionate reenactors. The justices seemed to suggest that modern public safety laws should not be constrained by the fashions, technology or constitutional understandings of the 18th century. Because, clearly, the Founding Fathers couldn’t possibly have foreseen the future complexities of a state where surfing is practically a divine right.
Critics, like attorney Kostas Moore who works with the California Rifle & Pistol Association, were quick to skewer the ruling, accusing the court of rehashing old, debunked arguments about collective rights. Meanwhile, Wilson’s attorney, Benjamin Lowenthal, was left scratching his head, pondering the existential question of what, exactly, the court had been smoking.
The Hawaii Supreme Court didn’t stop there. They doubled down on their creative jurisprudence by essentially saying, “Thanks, U.S. Supreme Court, but we prefer our own brand of constitutional interpretation.” By arguing that the islands’ unique cultural and historical context somehow negates the need to align with the broader constitutional protections recognized by the nation, the court has boldly gone where no court has gone before. And in doing so, they’ve penned a ruling that reads more like a rejected script for “Hawaii Five-O” than a sober legal decision.
“As the world turns, it makes no sense for contemporary society to pledge allegiance to the founding era’s culture, realities, laws, and understanding of the Constitution,” the court said.
To add insult to injury, the court referenced “The Wire,” a TV show known more for its gritty portrayal of drug-infested streets than its nuanced analysis of constitutional law, to justify its stance. The ruling actually quoted a line in The Wire with, “The thing about the old days, they the old days.”
This move alone should have legal scholars and TV critics alike wondering whether the court’s next legal citation might come from “Game of Thrones” or perhaps “The Mandalorian.”
As ludicrous as it is and offensive to any true rule of law in the nation, the Hawaii Supreme Court’s decision is a masterclass in judicial creativity, blending equal parts legal reasoning and cultural homage with a dash of audacious reinterpretation of fundamental rights designed to suit the state’s desired needs. It’s a reminder that in Hawaii, the spirit of aloha (whatever that is) and a good television drama can apparently shape the law in ways the Founding Fathers could never have imagined.
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