The Legislature is answering the call from the Department of Public Safety to look at enacting legislation that will make it tougher for individuals to own handguns in the event a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the CNMI Weapons Control Act prevails.
Judiciary and Governmental Operations chair Rep. Chris Leon Guerrero (Ind-Saipan) said the House of Representatives and the Senate have no choice but pass a bill that will regulate handguns, which were previously outlawed by local statute.
“There’s nothing we can do but introduce legislation. We want regulation in place in the event this lawsuit prevails. I’m not in support of handguns. We have the best gun laws in the nation. Statesiders I know are often surprised that this is only place in America where handguns are outlawed. They’re fascinated that we don’t allow handguns here,” Leon Guerrero said.
The 10-year DPS veteran said the House is already looking at a bill that will have strict qualifications for those applying for a handgun license.
“We don’t need handguns to defend ourselves, but if this happens we want this regulated right away. It will be a very strict handgun law,” said Leon Guerrero.
House Speaker Joseph P. Deleon Guerrero (Ind-Saipan) said he already tasked Leon Guerrero as chairman of the JGO to work with the Senate in crafting a bill or amending the current law that will address the issue.
Additionally, Deleon Guerrero has also set a meeting with DPS Commissioner James C. Deleon Guerrero next week to talk about the issue.
“Personally I oppose allowing handguns in the CNMI. We already have a low crime rate compared to other jurisdictions. I respect whatever the courts decide but at the same time we have the right to regulate our guns laws,” he said, adding that several states in the U.S. have already banned assault and semi-automatic weapons and that could be same course the Legislature will take.
Acting governor Jude U. Hofschneider said he has yet to weight in on the issue. “It’s a very sensitive issue and we have to look at it as a whole so that we can be able to make the best decision for the welfare of the community as far as that’s concerned.”
David J. Radich, a U.S. Navy Gulf War veteran, and his wife have filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court 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.