The Department of Public Safety is asking the Legislature to address the need for updated firearm laws in the Commonwealth.
A lawsuit challenging the Weapons Control Act is currently pending before the United States District Court for the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands. The lawsuit challenges the constitutionality of several key provisions of the Commonwealth Weapons Control act.
The first provision challenged in the lawsuit is Section 2222(e) of the Weapons Control Act. Section 2222(e) prohibits the importation, sale, transfer, purchase, or possession of handguns in the Commonwealth and it prohibits the possession of certain rifles and shotguns. If Section 2222(e) is held unconstitutional by the court, then handguns will be legal and largely unregulated in the Commonwealth. Further, a wide range of rifles and shotguns will also become legal in the Commonwealth.
The second provision challenged in the lawsuit is Section 2206 of the Weapons Control Act. Section 2206 requires a person to possess a valid identification card if the person wishes to carry a firearm. Significantly, section 2206 prohibits a person from carrying a firearm unless:
The firearm is unloaded and kept in a closed container; or
Locked in the trunk of a vehicle while being transported to or from a target range, a hunting area, or a sport involving firearms; or
The person is actively engaged in hunting or sports involving the use of firearms.
If the court holds that Section 2206 is unconstitutional, then it will be legal for any licensed person to carry a firearm openly in the Commonwealth.
In early September the department’s legal counsel, James M. Zarones, was asked to draft a comprehensive firearms bill. The bill was recently completed and forwarded to the Legislature for its review and consideration. The bill provides for taxation of certain firearms; thorough background checks; registration and tracking of all firearms; an assault weapons ban; firearm vendor licensing; the transition of the current law to the new law; gun-free zones; and rules for carrying a firearm.
The Legislature must act on this issue without hesitation. If the law is not updated swiftly, then the Commonwealth may be flooded with unregulated weapons; the damage to the peace and safety of the Commonwealth will be felt for years.
Further, if new laws are not enacted, then police officers, employers, and owners of private property will be unable to stop others from openly carrying firearms wherever and whenever they please.
For these reasons, the Department of Public Safety hopes that the Legislature will consider the proposed firearms bill, hold public hearings, and adopt new laws as quickly as possible. Any delay in the passage of new laws could have terrible consequences for the people of the Commonwealth.
James C. Deleon Guerrero
Commissioner, Department of Public Safety