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