Manglona: Written ruling forthcoming in challenge to CNMI’s new gun control laws

Paul A. Murphy

Paul A. Murphy

U.S. District Court for the NMI Chief Judge Ramona V. Manglona has stated that a written decision would be forthcoming in connection with motions brought up in a lawsuit filed by Paul A. Murphy, a U.S. Army veteran and teacher who challenged the constitutionality of some provisions in the Special Act for Firearms and Enforcement, which extensively revised the gun control laws of the CNMI.

After hearing all arguments Thursday afternoon, Manglona took the matters under advisement.

Murphy argued pro se, or without a lawyer, his motion for summary judgment. Assistant attorney general Charles Brasington argued in opposition as counsel for defendants Department of Public Safety Commissioner Robert A. Guerrero and Department of Finance Secretary Larrisa Larson.

Brasington also argued defendants’ cross motion for summary judgment. Murphy argued his reply.

In his motion, Murphy argued, among other things, that the $1,000 excise tax that the CNMI imposed under the newly enacted law, SAFE, is clearly in direct contravention to the U.S. District Court for the NMI’s ruling that the people of the Commonwealth have a right to possess handguns for self-defense.

Murphy said the purpose of the $1,000 tax to fund a study on the increased cost of handguns does not exist.

Murphy also argued that the storage provisions of the SAFE Act, the ban on “assault weapons,” and the criminalization of and ban on ammunition feeding devices of more than 10 rounds do not survive strict scrutiny and therefore, unconstitutional.

In Guerrero’s and Larson’s cross motion for summary judgment, Brasington argued, among other things, that the ban on assault rifles and the $1,000 tax on handguns in the CNMI as well as other SAFE provisions are constitutional.

Brasington said the ban on assault rifles in the Commonwealth survives intermediate scrutiny because the CNMI has a significant, substantial, and important interest in public safety, and there is a reasonable fit between the ban on assault rifles and protecting public safety.

Brasington said the $1,000 tax on pistols is constitutional because it is a legitimate use of the Commonwealth’s unique ability under the Covenant to control its own customs territory.

In his lawsuit, 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.

Ferdie De La Torre | Reporter
Ferdie Ponce de la Torre is a senior reporter of Saipan Tribune. He has a bachelor’s degree in journalism and has covered all news beats in the CNMI. He is a recipient of the CNMI Supreme Court Justice Award. Contact him at

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