OAG: District court upholds major portions of SAFE

NMI District Court Chief Judge Ramona V. Manglona has issued her decision and order concerning the Commonwealth’s Special Act for Fire Arms Enforcement in the Murphy v. Guerrero case.

“The Office of the Attorney General is pleased to have succeeded on the most important provisions of the Special Act for Fire Arms Enforcement (“SAFE”),” said Attorney General Edward Manibusan. “My office will continue to address the outstanding legal issues through legislation.”

According to the attorney general, draft legislation will be finalized to address the outstanding issues in a manner that provides the maximum protection for the community and manner consistent with the rights guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution.

The court’s decision will affect the people of the Commonwealth. It struck down the provision of the law requiring the transportation of unloaded firearms.

“In the court’s decision, individuals are now able to carry loaded handguns in public as long as they comply with other areas of Commonwealth law such as Gun-Free Zones. Second, individuals will now be able to own and possess rifles in calibers greater than .223 and shotguns in gauges greater than .410,” stated assistant attorney general Charles Brasington, who represented the Commonwealth in the suit.

He further stated, “Individuals will also be able to own semiautomatic rifles with certain attachments in calibers greater than .223.”

Manibusan stated that “the issue that will no doubt raise the most concern is the fact that the court’s holding that it is unconstitutional to completely ban individuals from carrying loaded handguns in public.”

Anticipating such a holding, the attorney general said that his office has already prepared legislation that will regulate the carrying of firearms in public to guarantee the safety of the community in a manner that is consistent with the United States and Commonwealth Constitutions.

This legislation will be submitted to the legislature for its consideration. Manibusan also stated that, “the other issues raised by the court are addressed in the Second Special Act for Firearms Enforcement (“SAFE II”), which has already been submitted to the legislature for action.” “We urge the Legislature to act expeditiously to ensure that proper and enforceable gun controls in the Commonwealth,” the attorney general stated.

The federal court found the following provisions to be constitutional: (1) requiring individuals to obtain a firearm license before being allowed to possess a firearm; (2) requiring the firearms kept in the home to be either “in a locked container or disabled with a trigger lock” or “carried on the person of an individual over the age of 21”; (3) outlawing magazines designed to accept more than 10 rounds of ammunition; (4) outlawing grenade launchers; (5) temporarily seizing firearms brought into the Commonwealth until the owner is not yet licensed to possess a firearm in the Commonwealth. The federal court found the following provisions to be unconstitutional: (1) the current law regarding the registration of firearms, which prevents an individual from taking possession of a new firearm for over two months; (2) the ban on rifle caliber above .223 and the restriction of shotgun gauge to .410; (3) the ban on certain assault weapon attachments to semiautomatic rifles; (4) the complete ban on carrying a loaded handgun in public; (5) temporarily seizing firearms brought into the Commonwealth until the firearms are registered under the current registration system; and (6) the $1,000 excise tax on handguns.

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