Handgun ban in NMI OK’d but…

Law takes effect if district court reverses ruling in Radich case

Gov. Ralph DLG Torres has enacted a law that seeks to ban once again firearms in the CNMI. It would only take effect, however, if the U.S. district court’s judgment in the Radich v. Guerrero case is “vacated, reversed, stayed, overruled, superseded, or in any other way rendered without immediate binding force.”

H.B. 20-34, which was offered by Rep. Vinson Sablan (Ind-Saipan), seeks to revive the prohibition of firearms in the CNMI, in the wake of the Radich v. Guerrero case.

In that case, U.S. Navy veteran David J. Radich had sued former Department of Public Safety commissioner James Deleon Guerrero and Department of Finance Secretary Larissa Larson to challenge the constitutionality of the CNMI Weapons Control Act prohibited residents from obtaining handguns for self-defense purposes.

NMI District Courts Chief Judge Ramon V. Manglona later ruled in favor of Radich, prompting the Legislature to amend its laws to follow the U.S. Constitution’s 2nd Amendment, or the right to bear arms, which Mangloña said applies to the CNMI.

If the condition of H.B. 20-34, now Public Law 20-27, is satisfied, it effectively bans CNMI residents from possessing handguns once again. However, with no active efforts to have the federal court’s ruling in Radich v. Guerrero vacated or overturned, it appears the new law will be moot.

According to a statement from the Torres administration, the recent mass shooting in Sutherland Springs, Texas, is a “reminder of how fragile life is and how vulnerable people are when guns are in the hands of an evil human being.”

“The shooting happened in a church, a place where people are supposed to feel safe and pray for a better life and a better community for their children and loved ones. The victims’ ages ranged from 18 months to 77 years old. A young child never got a chance to experience the beauty of life itself. I pray that we never have to go through something like that here, and this collective commitment by the administration and the Legislature will go on to ensure that for every person who calls these islands home,” Torres said in the statement.

According to H.B. 20-34, the Legislature “strongly disagrees” with the ruling in the Radich v. Guerrero case and that it “disputes its premise that the Covenant extends the Heller and McDonald decisions to the CNMI and is hopeful that it will be reviewed and overturned on appeal and the former law returned to force.”

According to Torres’ transmittal letter to the Legislature, he signed the bill as an “embodiment of this administration’s commitment to ensuring the safety of all citizens and residents of our great Commonwealth.”

“In just the past few years, our nation has been plagued with gun-related violence and death, exceeding any other developing country in the world. Just last month, 58 innocent people lost their lives at a Las Vegas concert at the hands of a mass shooter. Another 546 innocent people who were present at the event suffered gun-related injuries. And while the Commonwealth mourns with our fellow countrymen following the news of these tragedies, we are fortunate enough to have experienced only a small fraction of gun-associated casualties on Commonwealth soil. Therefore, it is this administration’s top priority to execute all the necessary safeguards to prevent these tragic occurrences from happening within our islands. It is my strong belief that H.B. 20-34 will play a key role in accomplishing this important objective,” said the Torres statement.

“Thus, justifiably, the revival of the handgun prohibition…is in better accord with the wishes of the Commonwealth people. Our unique handgun restriction law, since its implementation, has remained an effective preventive measure for controlling gun-related violence throughout our islands. Accordingly, it is imperative that this measure be preserved. For these reasons, I stand with the community in extending my full support of this critical piece of legislation,” he said, adding that the CNMI has first-hand experience of the destruction firearms may bring due to the CNMI’s “war-ridden past.”

Erwin Encinares | Reporter
Erwin Charles Tan Encinares holds a bachelor’s degree from the Chiang Kai Shek College and has covered a wide spectrum of assignments for the Saipan Tribune. Encinares is the paper’s political reporter.

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