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American Samoan living in Hawaii files suit claiming denial of 2nd & 14th amendment rights

U.S. Federal District Court building, Honolulu, HI
He cites Hawaii law banning U.S. Nationals from applying for firearms permit

Honolulu, HAWAII — A Hawaii resident, born in American Samoa and therefore classified under federal law as a U.S. national, has filed a civil complaint at the federal court in Honolulu against Hawaii Attorney General, Clare E. Connors over the state’s law banning non-US citizens from applying for a firearm permit in the state.

Also named as a defendant in the complaint, filed July 27th by Alanoa Nickel, is the State Sheriff’s Division administrator, Al Cummings, according to court documents which state that both Connors and Cummings are responsible for enforcing Hawaii’s customs, policies, practices and laws related to the State’s “ban on noncitizen U.S. Nationals applying for a permit to acquire a firearm.”

According to the lawsuit, the plaintiff, among other things, has never committed a state or federal crime and does not take illegal drugs and desires to apply for a permit to acquire a handgun permit which would enable him to defend himself in Hawaii.

“Other than Plaintiff’s status as a noncitizen U.S. National, there is no other reason under state or federal law that would preclude him from owning a firearm,” the lawsuit argued, noting that Nickel served and was honorably discharged from the Utah Air National Guard.

“Plaintiff has refrained from owning a firearm in Hawaii because he fears arrest, prosecution, fines and imprisonment if he were to do so because it is unlawful for a noncitizen U.S. National to receive a permit to acquire a firearm in Hawaii,” according to the complaint. “Due to Hawaii law requiring a permit to acquire or to purchase a firearm and registration of all firearms, Plaintiff is unable to acquire a firearm.”

The lawsuit states, Nickel went to the Honolulu Police Department on July 15th and attempted to apply for a permit to acquire a firearm. Upon discovering that Nickel was a noncitizen U.S. National, the officer processing Plaintiff’s paperwork denied him the opportunity to apply for a permit to acquire a firearm, citing state law.

Hawaii Revised Statute 134-2 (HRS 134-2) prohibits US nationals from owning a firearm. It states: the "chief of police of the respective counties may issue permits to acquire firearms to citizens of the United States of the age of twenty-one years or more,” the lawsuit explained.

It also argued that a controversy exists as to whether the US citizenship requirement contained in HRS 134-2 is unconstitutional as applied to noncitizen U.S. Nationals.

“There is no adequate remedy at law because only a declaration that HRS 134-2 is unconstitutional, as opposed to money damages, would allow Plaintiff as a noncitizen U.S. National the opportunity to apply for a permit to acquire a firearm,” court documents state.

Nickel alleges two counts in the lawsuit arguing that the citizenship requirement in HRS 134-2, and all other Hawaii statutory language, which restricts noncitizen U.S. Nationals the rights and privileges of owning firearms based on citizenship, on their face and as-applied:

•     are unconstitutional denials of the Second Amendment in violation of the Second Amendment of the United States Constitution.

•     are unconstitutional denials of equal protection of the laws in violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution.

Nickel is requesting from the federal court an “order preliminarily and permanently enjoining” the defendants from enforcing HRS 134-2’s citizenship requirement as applied to Plaintiff and to all non all noncitizen U.S. Nationals.

Additionally, he is requesting for the court to issue an order declaring that the citizenship requirement is unconstitutional and violates the Second Amendment and the Equal Protection Clause of the United States Constitution as applied to Plaintiff; and as applied to all noncitizen U.S. Nationals.

The court has set a hearing on Aug. 20th. Nickel is represented by Alan Alexander Beck, of the San Diego-based Law Office of Alan Beck, who also practices law in Hawaii.