HONOLULU — A U.S. Navy officer stationed in Hawaii cannot be denied a firearms permit solely because he sought counseling for feeling depressed and homesick, a federal judge ruled.
Michael Santucci, a cryptologic warfare officer from Fort Myers, Florida, saw a medical provider at a military hospital for feelings of depression and homesickness a few months after arriving in Hawaii last year, according to his lawsuit, filed in April.
He wasn’t diagnosed with any disqualifying behavioral, emotional or mental disorder, the lawsuit said.
He later filled out forms to register his firearms with the Honolulu Police Department and indicated that he had been treated for depression, but noted it was “not serious.”
Hawaii law requires registration of all firearms. Prior to acquiring a gun, an applicant must apply for a permit. Santucci needed such a permit even though he legally owned his firearms before arriving Hawaii.
Because Santucci answered “yes” on a form indicating he had sought counseling, the permit process was halted and his firearms were seized, his lawyers said.
Honolulu must return Santucci’s firearms and complete the registration of the weapons, U.S. District Judge Derrick Watson’s order issued Wednesday said.
“The City is evaluating the decision and its impact on our processes,” Honolulu Corporation Counsel Dana Viola said in a statement Friday.
Kevin O’Grady, one of Santucci’s lawyers, said the case was “illustrative of Hawaii’s strong opposition to anything that approaches the free exercise of the Second Amendment.”
The lawsuit was filed before a U.S. Supreme Court ruling expanding gun rights across the nation forced Hawaii to begin issuing concealed carry permits. Previously, those permits had been practically impossible to obtain.
Santucci’s lawsuit focused only on the permit to acquire firearms.
But Honolulu and the state will need to take the high court decision into consideration when overhauling the process to ensure others aren’t precluded from obtaining permits based on disclosing previous mental health counseling, said Alan Beck, another attorney representing Santucci.
“What the judge is saying is Honolulu is misapplying the law. They’re getting Hawaii law wrong,” Beck said. “If you marked ‘yes’ on counseling, then you’ve lost your gun rights.”