Hawaii latest state to have gun restrictions on legal immigrants overturned

A federal judge has overturned a Hawaii law barring legal immigrants from applying for a firearm permit, the latest in a wave of rulings against similar laws across the country.

Judge J. Michael Seabright ruled last week in favor of plaintiff Steve Fotoudis, an Australian citizen who is a permanent resident living in Honolulu.

According to court documents, Fotoudis was a competitive shooter in his home country and “had extensive training in firearms use and safety” before he moved to the U.S.

However, when Fotoudis attempted to apply for a firearm permit at the Honolulu Police Department, he was told he was not allowed to because of state law. The law restricted police in Hawaiian counties to issuing gun permits only to U.S. citizens, with a few exceptions that did not apply to Fotoudis.

Seabright ruled that law unconstitutional.

“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,” Seabright wrote. “This classification violates the equal protection clause of the U.S. Constitution.”

Gun rights advocates, like Second Amendment Foundation founder Alan Gottlieb, say rulings such as this strengthen the rights of both permanent residents and Americans citizens.

“The Second Amendment is an individual right,” he told FoxNews.com.

The Hawaii statute  is the latest in a series of similar laws being struck down across the nation.

Earlier this year, another federal judge ruled that a New Mexico law that only allowed citizens to apply for concealed handgun permits was unconstitutional.

Judge M. Christina Armijo ruled the law violated the 14th Amendment rights of another Australian citizen, who was represented by the Second Amendment Foundation.

According the Washington Times, attorneys for the state in that case unsuccessfully argued that the law was necessary, as it is impossible to run a complete background check on an immigrant.

They also argued setting different standards for citizens and permanent residents was not discriminatory.

The Second Amendment Foundation has likewise been successful in Massachusetts, Nebraska and Washington on the issue and has filed similar cases in other states.

The issue of gun rights for legal immigrants has also gained support from another end of the political spectrum. The American Civil Liberties Union told FoxNews.com in 2011 they supported the rights of legal immigrants to apply for a concealed weapon permit.

That same year, the group successfully helped a British citizen who was a permanent resident sue the state of South Dakota for the right to apply for a permit.

Gottlieb said while his foundation was not involved in the Hawaii case, he is “really proud” that the judge in that case seems to have followed the precedent of prior decisions.

He said if legal immigrants benefit from other constitutional rights while living in America, they also deserve to enjoy this one.

“Second Amendment rights should be treated the same way,” he said.