House to entertain gun bill in session today

House Speaker Rafael Demapan (R-Saipan) presides over a session yesterday. The House of Representatives is expected to act on a bill that proposes restriction on handgun ownership after the Ninth Circuit Court last week shot down the CNMI’s Weapons Control Act. (Contributed Photo)

House Speaker Rafael Demapan (R-Saipan) presides over a session yesterday. The House of Representatives is expected to act on a bill that proposes restriction on handgun ownership after the Ninth Circuit Court last week shot down the CNMI’s Weapons Control Act. (Contributed Photo)

The House of Representatives is set to act today on a sweeping gun control legislation offered in the wake of the U.S. District Court for the NMI’s ruling that effectively lifted the handgun ban in the CNMI last week.

The Senate passed the gun control proposal, drafted by the CNMI Attorney General’s office, last week.

Senate Bill 19-94 was not acted on in the House session yesterday but members recessed their session to 9:30am today in order to act on the bill, after clearing their bill calendar yesterday morning.

The House heard from several concerned community members and government officials yesterday on the proposed gun measure.

Among them was Department of Public Safety Commissioner Robert Guerrero, who called it an “open market” with handguns now legal in the NMI.

Guerrero disclosed that three applications for guns have already been turned into his department as of last Friday.

Barring problems with background checks, the department must issue these gun permits once this process is completed.

“I need something to stand on,” said Guerrero. “We need something to guide us” and meet officers’ needs when they go out on the streets, he said.

“I need something to stand on…to regulate what kind of firearms we can” and cannot permit, he said.

Probation officer Oscar C. Torres, for his part, said the Office of Attorney General has been studying this proposed measure since the lawsuit to repeal the gun law began two years ago.

“We don’t have to have a perfect bill in place right now,” Torres said. “There is no guidance, no regulations in place.”

Torres said he is a retired U.S. Marine and has had 25 years experience with weapons.

“This is one thing that is very scary,” he said. Absent regulations, “We are a lawless society out there. [The AG bill] is the safety net,” he said.

Torres emphasized there are handguns in the community as well as sub-machine guns in the community “right now.”

“It’s scary out there…We are dealing with criminals out there.”

Dennis B. Chan | Reporter
Dennis Chan covers education, environment, utilities, and air and seaport issues in the CNMI. He graduated with a degree in English Literature from the University of Guam. Contact him at dennis_chan@saipantribune.com.

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