Hawaii Court Favors Firearms Permits for Legal Immigrants

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posted on October 9, 2014
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In a little-reported ruling occurring in September, a federal judge overturned Hawaii's law prohibiting legal immigrants from applying for a firearm permit after an Australian citizen and permanent resident living in Honolulu filed for relief from the restrictive state statute. The judgment came in the case of Steve Fotoudis, a permanent U.S. resident who was denied the opportunity to apply for a firearms permit by the Honolulu Police Department after he did not meet the state's standard of being a U.S. citizen.

U.S. District Judge J. Michael Seabright, a 2005 President George W. Bush appointee, issued an injunction against the Honolulu Chief of Police as well as the state of Hawaii, citing the requirement as unconstitutional. Seabright said Fotoudis, a competitive shooter in Australia with extensive safety and firearms training prior to moving to Hawaii, must be allowed to apply for a permit and be evaluated "with no more or less scrutiny than would be applied to a citizen applicant."

"The undisputed facts establish that Fotoudis, as a lawful permanent resident alien of the United States (and resident of Hawaii) was denied the opportunity to apply for a permit to acquire firearms solely because of his alienage," wrote Seabright in his 18-page decision in the case of Fotoudis v City and County of Honolulu, handed down on Sept. 17. "This classification violated the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution."

The ruling marked the latest in a string of court rulings overturning similar laws and protecting individuals who legally and permanently reside in the U.S.

Earlier this year, a federal judge ruled a New Mexico law that only permitted citizens to apply for concealed handgun permits was unconstitutional.This spring, a similar decision was handed down in the case of a man from The Netherlands who had been issued his visa in 1984 but the Arkansas State Police refused to renew his carry permit because he was not a citizen. And in 2013, a federal judge struck down Nebraska's citizenship requirement following a successful suit in the case of a Mexican national who obtained his resident visa in 1991 and resided in the state continually since that time.

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