U.S. District Court for the NMI Chief Judge Ramona V. Manglona has ruled that the Commonwealth’s passing of the Special Act for Firearms Enforcement appears to moot some issues in a lawsuit by U.S. Army Ranger Paul Michael Murphy who sued over the alleged confiscation of his firearms and ammunition in 2002.
In an order issued on Monday, 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.
The judge said the SAFE Act appears to potentially introduce still others such as the ban on assault weapons, which defendants former Department of Public Safety commissioner James C. Deleon Guerrero and Finance Secretary Larrisa Larson believe may apply to one of Murphy’s rifles.
Manglona said because the new law changes the posture of Murphy’s case, the court will deny both parties’ cross-motions for summary judgment without prejudice and set a status conference to determine how to proceed.
A status conference in the case was set yesterday afternoon.
Murphy sued Deleon Guerrero and Larson in their official capacities to enjoin them from enforcing several provisions of the Commonwealth’s gun control laws as enacted in its Weapons Control Act.
Manglona heard argument on the parties’ cross-motions for summary judgment and took the matter under advisement.
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 the 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.
Assistant attorney general Charles Brasington said SAFE removes the ban on possession of handguns and also establishes new rules for transporting and using firearms.
Brasington said SAFE maintains the prohibition on rifles in calibers above .22 and .223, and shotguns of gauge greater than .410.
He said SAFE creates an assault weapon ban.
The assault weapon includes a semi-automatic rifle in a caliber greater than .223 that has the capacity to accept a detachable magazine.
Murphy’s lawsuit seeks to repeal the CNMI Weapons Control Act and all associated legislation, licensing, taxation, recording, administration, and processing.
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.