COMMONWEALTH WEAPONS ACT
Gov. Eloy S. Inos said his administration is prepared in the event the Commonwealth Weapons Act is declared unconstitutional by the U.S. District Court for the NMI.
“This is a constitutional issue and—although I don’t want to preempt any court proceedings that’s going on right now—we will be prepared in the event the court shoots down the CNMI gun law. We’re prepared to initiate legislation that will be consistent with, No. 1, the U.S. Constitution and, No. 2, the court ruling that might come out shooting down the CNMI gun law,” said Inos in an interview with Saipan Tribune.
The governor said he would support legislation that will make it very difficult for anyone to obtain a license to own handguns.
“Possession, ownership, and stuff like that, we couldn’t do much about that, but how do you get there…the licenses to the wholesaler, to the distributor, strict background checks for guns and ammunition is what we’re looking at.”
Press secretary Angel Demapan said Senate floor leader Pete Reyes’ (Ind-Saipan) prefiled bill has the support of the governor as well as Department of Public Safety Commissioner James Deleon Guerrero and Attorney General Gilbert Birnbrich.
“In fact, the OAG and the DPS commissioner worked together in putting the bill together. We cannot maintain the status quo of gun regulation in the CNMI because of recent U.S. Supreme Court decisions. AG Birnbrich stated that the pending bill is good because it will accommodate every individual’s constitutional rights as declared by the courts while still maintaining public safety,” he told Saipan Tribune.
The bill Demapan was referring to is Senate Bill 18-69, which was prefiled last Oct. 16 by Reyes. It is a measure “to provide for the possession and management of firearms in the Commonwealth.”
‘Strike and balance’
DPS chief Deleon Guerrero said it is unfortunate that someone has challenged the constitutionality of the Commonwealth Weapons Act. Just the same, he feels the challenge was inevitable.
“There is no better law than the current Weapons Control Act. However, we feel that there’s a high likelihood that the particular law we have here in the CNMI will be rendered unconstitutional and in violation of the Second Amendment. The CNMI when it entered in political union with the United States, the Second Amendment became applicable to the CNMI as a territory. …We need to prepare ourselves in the event that the Weapons Control Act gets thrown put by the courts and one of the ways to prepare ourselves is to come up with legislation that provides a strike and balance between having the most strict form of gun legislation versus meeting the requirements of the Second Amendment,” he said.
Deleon Guerrero said DPS, in consultation with the Office of Attorney General, reviewed the best gun laws in the country and picked provisions that would better suit the CNMI.
“What our the department has done is made extensive research through our legal counsel and looked at what other jurisdictions have; like which of the jurisdictions have the strictest form of gun law. We kind of combined them all together and sort of tailor-made them to the situation here. It’s currently with the Senate and DPS has already submitted its comments.”
Deleon Guerrero said the CNMI community must learn to face reality—firearms will eventually be legalized here in the Commonwealth.
“We don’t want this. So we would prefer to have a strict gun laws in place. The CNMI, especially my department, should be put into a situation where it has the capacity to be able to provide a number of services after this becomes law. We have to start having two-man patrols units throughout the villages and this would require more police officers.”
He said DPS would eventually have to start deploying police officers to schools to prevent mass shooting at campuses, which unfortunately has become a common occurrence in the U.S. mainland.
“We don’t want to have copycat incidents here.”
Deleon Guerrero added that a lot of regulatory agencies that were not previously armed will now have to be armed because of the Commonwealth Weapons Act will become unconstitutional.
“In my opinion, the less guns we have, the better off it is. If you were to give me a choice between having more guns out there and us having more weapons to defend ourselves against this type of menace versus passing a law that will disarm all law enforcers, I prefer not to carry guns. If you were to give me a choice, I would prefer that police officers do not get armed or nobody gets armed as opposed to actually having high-power rifles to defend ourselves against pistols and things like that,” he said.
David J. Radich, a U.S. Navy Gulf War veteran, and his wife has filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court for the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands challenging the constitutionality of the CNMI Weapons Control Act that prohibits all residents from obtaining handguns for self-defense purposes. Radich’s wife suffered serious injuries during a home invasion on Saipan in 2010.