A bill that hopes to again prohibit handguns in the CNMI is headed to the Senate after the House of Representatives passed it during Friday’s session on Capital Hill.
HB 20-34, introduced by Rep. Vinson F. Sablan (Ind-Saipan), is among the six legislative measures that would be reviewed by the Senate. If passed without amendments, it would go straight to Gov. Ralph DLG Torres for enactment.
Friday was a busy day for the House, which passed HB 20-3 (e-citation implementation), 20-37 (to prohibit taking and selling certain sizes of fish species), 20-44 (marriage license fees), 20-45 (to establish two new public highways on Saipan), and 20-48 (to prohibit under-18 persons to serve alcoholic beverages). That’s on top of four resolutions being adopted.
HB 20-34 aims to repeal Section 3 of Public Law 19-42 and revive former 6 CMC 2222 (e), which states that no person is allowed to import, sell, transfer, give away, purchase, possess, or use handguns or automatic weapons.
Sablan said HB 20-34 is a safety net bill since it has always been his position that handguns have no place in the CNMI.
“We are a small island community and we can’t compare ourselves with other jurisdictions. The safety of the public is our main concern here,” he said.
He said his bill ensures the safety of the community. He believes CNMI laws did not deprive any citizen of their right to own firearms. Rifles, shotguns, and caliber .22 or .223 are allowed.
Lawyer Joseph Horey, who represented the Tanapag Middle School Parents-Teachers-Students Association, spoke in support of HB 20-34, saying that public safety is their main concern, that’s why they are lobbying for the prohibition on handguns.
“From a school’s perspective, we’re concerned of school shootings. We think it was better before and parents are concerned so we’ve decided to get involved in the case. Handguns can be easily carried,” said Horey.
He added that right now there’s a pending appeal on the Radich case and, once the law passes, the CNMI would go back to banning handguns.
Horey said he respects Radich’s rights but people have different perspectives. “It is a balance that you have to do and to consider. …Is it better for public safety for people may have access to [handguns] or not? Our position in the PTSA is overall safety of the community.”
He added the bill’s purpose revives the prohibition on the importation, sale, and possession of handguns, “which we used to have here under CNMI.”
HB 20-34 states that a handgun prohibition has protected public safety and better accorded with the wishes of the people of the CNMI.