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"Defend Hawaii" T-shirts feature AR-15 assault rifles

Courtesy Defendhawaii.com

BY KENNETH R. CONKLIN, PH.D. -- The December 14 massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown Connecticut has dominated the news media for several days. Twenty first-grade children, ages 6 and 7, along with five teachers plus the principal, were gunned down in school. Each victim was shot multiple times -- some bodies had as many as 10 or 11 bullets in them.

Although the shooter had several weapons with him in the school, news reports indicate that all the bullets fired into the children came from a Bushmaster AR-15 semi-automatic assault rifle in a period of less than 10 minutes divided between two classrooms.

The same sort of assault rifle used in the school massacre has been featured on T-shirts, caps, and car stickers which have been selling in Hawaii for about 5 years. These items are being sold to locals and tourists alike, through an internet store and also brick-and-mortar stores throughout Hawaii including "Local Motion", "Island Snow", and numerous surf shops at Ala Moana, Windward Mall, Pearl Ridge, and other locations on O'ahu, Maui, and Hawaii Island. For a list of stores and locations see

Many offensive items show an AR-15 assault rifle with large-size words "Defend Hawaii." Perhaps the most offensive T-shirt has the "Defend Hawaii" slogan and assault rifle on the front, while on the back of the shirt is the Kamehameha statue depicting the King holding the assault rifle in his outstretched hand. Both sides of that T-shirt are shown at
on the "Defend Hawaii" website at
In case that image gets taken down, both sides of that T-shirt have also been saved at

Interestingly, there were loud protests by Hawaiian sovereignty activists a few years ago when a tourist brochure showed the Kamehameha statue with the King holding a martini in his outstretched hand; and the tourist company removed the brochure.  There were protests when a realtor posted an ad online portraying Iolani Palace for sale (to illustrate how to market a house effectively); and the realtor took down the ad.  But there have been no Hawaiian activist protests whatsoever against the "Defend Hawaii" T-shirts including the one showing the Kamehameha statue holding an AR-15 assault rifle.

The "Defend Hawaii" website also shows death-head skulls in several places, and occasionally a pineapple which, on closer examination, looks more like a hand grenade.

The "about" section of the webpage at
begins by saying
"Our mission is to DEFEND HAWAII Hawaii is often referred to as ‘the melting pot’ because our diversity in PEOPLE as well as cultures. When Hawaii is home base, literal location is not a factor. The familiar tread [sic], tying us, is always ALOHA. DEFEND HAWAII simply strives to preserve the notion, to DEFEND the Aloha Spirit, the Hawaii way of life. Wherever you are, you’re PROUD to be from Hawaii, representing the culture and it’s [sic] essences. Our AR-15 Logo is often questioned, but a gun is the strongest symbolized statement for the word DEFEND. The logo is not meant to provoke violence, but rather figuratively suggest protection by the highest means. We’re here to plant the proverbial seed, initiate a positive thought process. To Defend Hawaii, is to Defend Aloha.."

But the claim that their mission is to defend Aloha simply is not credible. Why should assault rifles, death-head skulls, and hand grenades be used as symbols of Aloha? They want to defend Hawaii, but we can only guess what it is they really want to defend Hawaii from and what their long-term goals are (besides making money from inflammatory T-shirts).

On Sunday December 16, just two days after the massacre of 20 children and 6 adults in Sandy Hook Elementary School, "Defend Hawaii" featured a special "Christmas Sale" of its T-shirts at Windward Mall from 10 AM to 2 PM,
which was extended to 5 PM as announced on a special Twitter update posted on its "about" page. What amazing arrogance and lack of sensitivity to the grief of a nation! The two-hour extension of the sale was underway as TV was carrying President Obama's speech to the grieving parents and families at an interfaith memorial service in Newtown CT.

I hope that people who deplore violence and subtle threats of violence will talk with the merchants selling this garbage, and the people wearing these T-shirts or displaying "Defend Hawaii" assault-rifle stickers on their cars. Ask them why they sell or display such items. Ask them who is behind the "Defend Hawaii" campaign and what their real purpose is. Let them know you think it is grossly inappropriate. Our Constitution gives merchants the right to sell this stuff, and it gives people the right to display it. Our Constitution also gives decent people the right to tell these jerks exactly what we think. For further information about violence and threats of violence which the "Defend Hawaii" campaign seems to be serving, see

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24 Comments for “"Defend Hawaii" T-shirts feature AR-15 assault rifles”

  1. These shirts should be burned. Why would anyone wear such a disgusting thing.

    • It's just a style. If you don't like it dont buy it. Simple.. Btw the sandy hook massacre was a plot by the government in order to make a strong care and push toward the control of automatic firearms. All in order the un-arm the people and make a revolt against the government next to impossible. The United States of America is a country that holds it people under oppression. So look at the bigger picture you dummy. It's just a shirt

    • Woo hoo! A Burning!

    • yeah!let`s burn books too!then we can start banning spoons for making people fat!that`s the ticket dude!your a fucking moron!

  2. Dear Dr. Conklin,

    Please read "Our Shameful Media II" by Charles Memminger, published in the same publication as your article.

    Thank you,


  3. This is a post of a man taking every thing to the FARTHEST EXTREME. Sorry sir, you are not a PHILOSOPHER you are an EXTREMIST. You having a so called degree, I'd think you'd take up any concerns you got for the company like a professional but thats out of the question. And If you did your research correctly you could see none of the tees have Kamehameha holding an AR-15. Your example of the shirt was posted back in 2010, it is 2012.... And you bring up the shooting like it is nothing... We all have been affected by the tragic events that past, we all have brothers, sisters, cousins, and Ohana but you sir seem like using that as a gauge to bash a company you have no knowledge about. How is extending a sale bad? Defend Hawaii is a local business for the local people and local people support local business. The brand sparks consciousness that is clearly proven by your article its just up to you to take it how you want. Before I leave this thread please act your age and status and grow up a little and I bid you good day sir.

    - ku'upilialoha

    PS : if you have any concerns be happy to email me at koins92@gmail.com

  4. Assault rifles = aloha? BWA HA HA HA! My friend you are 1) not logical (a business is good simply because it is "local?" In that case Pflueger cannot be criticized for fouling Kauai land and water while weakening the Kaloko damn, killing what, six innocents. Of course they were haoles and Pflueger stay local born);
    2) sorry, but I just reread your post and I can't even bother to list how many examples you have of stupidity, name-calling, absurd generalizations, incorrect grammar....
    Or maybe you are a clever troll, sabotaging the case against Defend Hawaii with your flat-out idiotic babble. In that case, well done.

  5. You should really look up the meaning of Street wear and get off the D

  6. Appropriate, and as usual, well stated Ken.

  7. I'm going to have to go ahead and agree with Kent, here. No, not you Ken, you sir need to do more research. You must one of those "fortunate" folk, who get a visit from Mr. President during his vacations. I'm finding it hard to figure out if you're against the GUNS, or against a CLOTHING BRAND...
    You state, "But the claim that their mission is to defend Aloha simply is not credible. Why should assault rifles, death-head skulls, and hand grenades be used as symbols of Aloha?" and do so directly after showing and reading, "Our AR-15 Logo is often questioned, but a gun is the strongest symbolized statement for the word DEFEND. The logo is not meant to provoke violence, but rather figuratively suggest protection by the highest means." Is anyone else confused by your contradictory? It's not saying the DESIGNS are symbols of Aloha, and THEY (which term you spelt incorrectly in the quote above), DEFEND HAWAII, simply strives to preserve the NOTION of the Aloha SPIRIT, the HAWAII way of life: past, present AND future. Whether if it's a local surfer competing in Australia, a MMA athlete competing in Japan, or just a local braddah grinding a kalua pig and laulau plate from Aloha Kitchen in Las Vegas. Wherever you are, you're PROUD to be from Hawaii, representing our culture and spirit. All in all, Dr. Conklin, it's just an apparel business FROM HAWAII. Have you not seen the other designs Defend Hawaii creates, it's in the hundreds, as well as carries a wide variety derived from Hawaii-culture, today's mainstream society, pure parody.
    I also wonder if the many non-profit organizations that get donations from the brand have any complaints, which include but not limited to multiple military Veteran charities. Or perhaps, the many of LOCAL athletes and musicians that are supported by Defend Hawaii might have an issue? We're simply offering the people who BUY product IN Hawaii an option to support LOCAL, as well as those who purchase the product online, it keeps the money IN HAWAII which is PUT BACK mostly into other LOCAL businesses, which in-turn builds our state for a brighter tomorrow.
    So, again Dr. Conklin, although this may be your opinion under your protection of free speech and others as well as yourself may think it's truth. Our name and logo are trademarked with the state of Hawaii, and nationwide. This article is very off-putting, and you borderline a lawsuit for libel, slander and defamation. Email me, I live in Kaneohe, maybe we can meet up for hot cocoa...

  8. ALOHA,

    I was born and raised in the best place in the world, in the universe even..HAWAII! And moving away from the islands for school has granted me not only significant appreciation for our aina, (because let's face it, Hawaiians are such prideful people) it has also allowed me to better grasp the meaning our Hawaiian culture from 3000 miles away.

    DEFEND HAWAII's website does clearly state that "The logo is not meant to provoke violence, but rather figuratively suggest protection by the highest means," however, with any retail, some consumers make certain purchases based on emotions linked to certain symbolism while some don't.

    Consumers purchase brands in which they feel best mirror their personal style and identity. However, since these trendy colors and designs obviously target the younger demographic, the question really is...How does this brand influence our Hawaii kids, our teenagers, our young adults that purchase them?? In my opinion, I feel Kenneth has a valid point when considering the symbolism and or meaning behind these products.. atleast a point worth looking into.

    Do all our Hawaii children, teens, young adults have the thought process determine that the gun depicted on these t-shirts stand for no more than a symbolism of protection..protection of ALOHA? Isn't this in turn a little ironic that a weapon of mass destruction can also represent LOVE. Why the use of a gun? Could there have been a different way to symbolize the way our Hawaiian culture, the way our own king protected his people? Or was a gun the best choice for that?

    Aside from that.... Hawaiians we need not make use of such shameful words like "Haole." Everyone should be considered our brethrens and sisthrens! Our actions, our words, our creations...affect our Hawaiian youth!

    Hawaii is my forever my home but It's okay to question sometimes what we taught we already knew...Just because someone other than our familiar culture says it does not mean this person is using race in any way against us.. throw "Haole" in there however and you become what you accused others of.


  9. "Although the shooter had several weapons with him in the school, news reports indicate that all the bullets fired into the children came from a Bushmaster AR-15 semi-automatic assault rifle in a period of less than 10 minutes divided between two classrooms."

    Any more LIES? The AR-15 was not used at Sandy Hook. It was a CONVENIENT pre-conceived script using the tragedy to push an "Assault Weapons" Ban. "Never let a crisis go to waste" as Rahm Emmanuel was infamous for saying.

    So get off the backs of Defend Hawaii. Until the racist crime of 1893 is undone you have no right to wag your fingers at Hawaiians, as if they have no place to talk smack against the "Manifest Destiny" arrogance of white racism. Colonialism is far more "offensive" then a clever t-shirt.

  10. One of the most ignorant articles I've ever wasted my time reading.

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