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Monday, April 21, 2014

Ex-Army Ranger: CNMI laws on handguns unconstitutional

A former U.S. Army Ranger who is now an educator has agreed with a lawyer that the CNMI Weapons Act is unconstitutional and should be repealed or made moot.

Paul Aguon Murphy said that defendant Sergio M. Rangamar should not be charged with criminal action for the mere possession of a handgun.

Murphy so far is the only one to submit an amicus curiae (friend of the court) brief at the invitation of Superior Court Associate Judge Joseph N. Camacho.

Attorney Mark Scoggins, counsel for Rangamar, has asked the court to dismiss the charges of illegal possession of a firearm and illegal possession of ammunitions against Rangamar.

Scoggins asserts that laws that outlaw the simple possession of handguns in the CNMI are unconstitutional. He pointed out that portions of the Commonwealth Weapons Act are unconstitutional under the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

Police arrested the 36-year-old Rangamar for allegedly aiming a gun at his two cousins in Gualo Rai. Police recovered at the scene a 9mm semi-automatic pistol with a 9mm live round in the chamber, another live round in the magazine, seven 9mm full rounds, and five 9mm hallow point live rounds.

In a recent order, Camacho said how the issue in Rangamar’s motion is resolved has the potential of legalizing handguns in the CNMI so he desires a “robust record” in order to consider the motion to dismiss.

Camacho directed the parties to submit supplemental briefing. He also urged interested parties to submit briefs.

In his brief filed last week, Murphy said that Article 1 Section 2202 specifically violates Rangamar’s second amendment right by banning handguns en banc, therefore making the mere possession of a handgun a criminal act.

Citing several court rulings, including a U.S. Supreme Court’s, Murphy said the second amendment has been interpreted to mean that an individual has the right to possess a firearm for self-defense.

Murphy noted, among other things, that Article 1 Section 2204 violates the defendant’s second amendment right by banning the possession of a firearm precluding approval and receipt of a Firearms Identification Card.

Murphy said he returned to the CNMI in July 2007 on military leave to complete his term of service as a U.S. Army Ranger.

He said he flew from Columbus, Georgia to Saipan with a number of firearms and ammunitions and declared those as per the firearms declaration forms provided in U.S. airports.

Murphy said he presented the firearms to the CNMI Customs agent in accordance with the firearms declaration form.

He said the Customs agent called his supervisor and he was brought into the supervisor’s office where an Alcohol Tobacco Firearms agent, FBI agent, and the Commerce director were present.

“I was questioned as to the legality of the firearms and ammunition and was accused by the director of Commerce of stealing those items,” he said.

Murphy said the authorities later determined that he did not commit any crime and was allowed to enter the CNMI.

He said all his firearms and ammunition were confiscated and was informed that two of his firearms would not be allowed into the CNMI so he was forced to store them at the Guam Police Department Armory.

In addition, Murphy said a large portion of his ammunition was also not allowed into the CNMI and is currently being held at the CNMI Police Department Armory.

He said he was forced to pay for the entire CNMI licensing process for firearms he already owns, even though he possesses a concealed carry license from the State of Georgia, safely used firearms throughout his military career, was cleared by the FBI background check to purchase and own firearms, and cleared multiple domestic and international airline security checkpoints en route to Saipan.

Murphy said the CNMI’s firearms licensing laws force him to pay for the license every two years or risk the reconfiscation of his firearms.

“I waited for nearly two years before my first CNMI firearms application was approved. I was psychologically and emotionally traumatized over being disarmed. I felt dishonored,” he said.

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