Constitutionality of SAFE Act challenged

U.S. Army veteran Paul M. Murphy is challenging the constitutionality of some provisions in the newly enacted law, Special Act for Firearms Enforcement that extensively revised the gun control laws of the CNMI.

Murphy argued that the enforcement of some provisions in the SAFE Act and CNMI Weapons Control Act has and continues to violate his 2nd and 14th Amendment rights.

Murphy raised his challenge in his fourth amended complaint that he filed pro se or without a lawyer in federal court on Friday.

In the new complaint, the plaintiff substituted Department of Public Safety Commissioner Robert A. Guerrero as co-defendant of Department of Finance Secretary Larissa Larson. James C. Deleon Guerrero was removed as defendant in this case because he is no longer the DPS commissioner.

Murphy asked the U.S. District Court for the NMI to issue a preliminary and permanent injunctions enjoining DPS Commissioner Guerrero from enforcing against him the firearms and ammunition storage restrictions and the prohibition on obtaining, owning, and possessing ammunition feeding devices of more than 10 rounds.

Murphy also asked the court to enjoin the ban on firearms in calibers other than .22 caliber rimfire, .22 caliber center fire, .223 caliber center-fire, and shotguns other than those in .410 gauge defined as “assault weapon[s],” and the firearms and ammunition licensing and registration schemes.

The plaintiff asked the court to enjoin Larson from authorizing and enforcing against him the withholding of his prohibited items currently being held in DPS custody, the ban on the importation of personal firearms currently being held in Guam, and any further provisions in the CNMI SAFE Act.

Murphy asked the court to issue a judgment declaring as unconstitutional the following:

The firearms and ammunition storage restrictions.

Criminalization of and restriction on ammunition feeding devices of more than 10 rounds.

Ban on firearms in calibers other than .22 caliber rimfire, .22 caliber center-fire, .223 caliber center-fire, and shotguns other than those in .410 gauge defined as “assault weapon.”

The firearms and ammunition taxation schemes.

The firearms and ammunition licensing and registrations schemes; as applicable in the CNMI and to law abiding CNMI-U.S. citizens and nationals.

Murphy argued that the SAFE Act’s firearms and ammunition storage requirements do not survive strict scrutiny.

Murphy said the restrictions do not burden only the “manner in which persons may exercise their 2nd Amendment right, but place a blanket restriction on all firearms.

He said the restrictions are so severe as to abolish the core lawful purpose of the right itself: Self-defense.

Murphy said the criminalization of and ban on ammunition feeding devices of more than 10 rounds does not survive scrutiny as it violates a constitutionally protected “arms.”

Murphy said the ban on rifles in calibers other than .22 caliber rimfire, .22 caliber center-fire, .223 caliber center-fire, and shotguns other than .410 gauge defined as “assault weapon[s] do not survive intermediate scrutiny.

He said such ban singles out the 2nd Amendment for “specifically unfavorable treatment, significantly and severely burdens the core of the Second Amendment, and places a blanket restriction on constitutionally protected firearms.”

Murphy said the tax requirements and fees on rifles and pistols singles out the 2nd Amendment for specifically unfavorable treatment and places a de fact ban on a whole class of firearms namely pistols.

U.S. District Court for the NMI Chief Judge Ramona V. Manglona recently ruled that the Commonwealth’s passing of SAFE appears to moot some issues in the lawsuit by Murphy, who sued over the alleged confiscation of his firearms and ammunition in 2002.

Manglona said with the CNMI’s passing of SAFE Act, Murphy can now register a handgun in a caliber above .22, which is one of the issues in his lawsuit.

Manglona said the SAFE Act, which extensively revised the gun control laws of the CNMI, appears to leave others unresolved such as the ban on rifles in calibers greater than .223.

On March 28, 2016, Manglona issued a decision and order in another control case filed by U.S. Navy veteran David J. Radich and his wife, Li-Rong. In that order, the judge struck down the Commonwealth’s ban on handguns for self-defense in the home.

In response, the CNMI passed SAFE Act.

The Office of the Attorney General recently notified the federal court that Murphy is now alleged to register his Glock pistol pursuant to Weapons Control Act.

Murphy alleged that DPS withheld all his firearms and ammunition until the issuance of a firearms, ammunition, and explosive identification card on Sept. 20, 2007.

He said his two firearms were sent to Guam Police Department armory for holding, while the ammunition is being held by the CNMI DPS Firearms Section. He said DPS has denied his repeated requests to carry and possess his rifle and pistol.

Ferdie De La Torre | Reporter
Ferdie Ponce de la Torre is a veteran journalist who has covered all news beats in the CNMI. Born in Lilo-an, Cebu City in the Philippines, De la Torre graduated from the University of Santo Tomas with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. He is a recipient of many commendations and awards, including the CNMI Judiciary’s prestigious Justice Award for his over 10 years of reporting on the judiciary’s proceedings and decisions. Contact him at ferdie_delatorre@saipantribune.com

Related Posts

Disclaimer: Comments are moderated. They will not appear immediately or even on the same day. Comments should be related to the topic. Off-topic comments would be deleted. Profanities are not allowed. Comments that are potentially libelous, inflammatory, or slanderous would be deleted.