Senate floor leader Pete P. Reyes (Ind-Saipan) has prefiled a bill that will regulate handguns in the Commonwealth in anticipation of the U.S. District Court possibly shooting down the Commonwealth Weapons Control Act.
Reyes’ Senate Bill 18-69, prefiled last Oct. 16, is a measure “to provide for the possession and management of firearms in the Commonwealth.”
The Commonwealth Weapons Control Act has been challenged in the courts and Reyes said the CNMI is now faced with a difficult decision—whether to fight a costly legal battle with little or no prospect of success or move forward in conformance with the Second Amendment.
“The Legislature finds that it is not in the best interest of the Commonwealth to wage an expensive legal battle that cannot be won. Therefore, the Legislature finds that it is in the best interests of the Commonwealth to enact comprehensive legislation for the regulation and control of firearms ammunition in the Commonwealth,” SB 18-69 reads.
The bill seeks to amend some parts of the current statute as well as add new sections. For example, a new section will be created under “Firearms Excise Tax” that recognizes that “the Department of Public Safety will require a significant increase in its funding due to the proliferation of firearms in the Commonwealth.”
Under this section, a tax of $1,000 will be imposed upon the manufacturer, producer, or importer of any pistol, shotgun, and rifle save for any .410 shotgun and .22 caliber rim fire rifle.
Under the section “Weapons Control,” the bill details the Firearms Owner’s Identification Card requirement and its exceptions.
It states that no person can “acquire or possess” any firearms or ammunition within the Commonwealth without having a Firearms Owner’s Identification Card that is issued by DPS.
Those exempted from the Firearms Owner’s Identification Card requirement include, among others, U.S. Marshals, members of the U.S. Armed Forces and National Guard, and members of bona fide veteran organizations.
Under the bill, applicants for the Firearms Owner’s Identification Card must be 21 years old or older, not addicted to narcotics, not been a patient of a mental facility within the past five years, not intellectually disabled, not an alien unlawfully present in the U.S., not been convicted of violating an order of protection or not a subject of an existing order of protection, not currently facing charges for an act of violence or an act involving a firearm, and had not been convicted within 10 years prior to the application, among others.
The bill also calls for would-be gun owners to undergo a background check, safety training requirement, and a written safety test. The bill states that the Firearms Owner’s Identification Card will be valid for five years.
David J. Radich, a U.S. Navy Gulf War veteran, and his wife have filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court challenging the constitutionality of the CNMI Weapons Control Act after Radich’s wife suffered serious injuries during a home invasion on Saipan in 2010.
The CNMI Weapons Control Act prohibits all residents from obtaining handguns for self-defense purposes.