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Marianas moves forward with gun registration after legal rebuff

Monday, November 14, 2016 7:34
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CNMI Gov. Ralph DLG Torres will soon have to sign or veto another lengthy addition to the territory's gun laws (Photo: Post Guam)

CNMI Gov. Ralph DLG Torres will soon have to sign or veto another lengthy addition to the territory’s gun laws (Photo: Post Guam)

Despite a federal ruling issued in September that struck down a handgun registration scheme in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, local lawmakers have passed another.

After a series of lawsuits ended the U.S. territory’s total ban on handgun ownership, the local government adopted the Special Act for Firearms Enforcement earlier this year. The law imposed sweeping gun control measures, licensing schemes and strict rules regarding how one carries and secures firearms.

In September, federal Chief Judge Ramona Manglona struck down several parts of the SAFE act, including the handgun registration scheme, a ban on assault weapons and public carry, and a $1,000 excise tax on handguns.

Now, lawmakers are back with a 93-page SAFE II law which required a 133-page explanation to lawmakers by Commonwealth Attorney General Ed Manibusan.

Approved by the CNMI’s Senate and House unanimously, the bill now headed to likely signature by Gov. Ralph DLG Torres has a registration requirement. Gun owners will have seven days to register them with the local government under threat of a $500 civil fine.

“Our concern right now is we don’t have a registration process in the commonwealth so this bill will provide one so we can properly register firearms here,” Manibusan told The Marianas Variety.

“The Legislature strongly disagrees with the current interpretation of the Second Amendment and strongly believes that handguns are neither necessary nor desirable in our peaceful community,” noted lawmakers in the bill’s text. “The Legislature’s express goal is to protect the lives, safety, and welfare of the People of the Commonwealth by creating strict registration schemes, which comply with the Second Amendment, for the licensing of firearm owners, licensing and regulation of firearm vendors, and the registration of individual firearms in the Commonwealth.”

How the requirement will sit with the court is unclear, as Manglona specifically noted in her 55-page ruling last summer that, “[B]ecause only a minority of jurisdictions have adopted firearm registration laws — even to this day — the Commonwealth’s firearm registration law cannot be presumptively lawful.”

Also included in SAFE II is a ban on .50 caliber rifles, with Manibusan’s office observing that they should be prohibited “because they possess tremendous destructive power,” capable of firing for “eight miles” and that banning them specifically will help insulate the territory’s gun laws if the CNMI’s “caliber restrictions as to rifles is found to be unconstitutional.”

Another addition is a prohibition on the display of firearms in the windows of gun vendors while placing limits on where a gun store can operate and mandating they report their inventory to the Department of Public Safety twice a year.

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