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Federal Judge Strikes Down Assault Weapons Ban, Says Prohibited Features Actually Make Guns Safer to Use

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AR-15 rifles line a shelf in the gun library at the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms National Tracing Center in Martinsburg, West Virginia December 15, 2015. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

A line of black rifles at the ATF’s National Tracing Center in Martinsburg, West Virginia, December 15, 2015. (Photo: Reuters/Jonathan Ernst)

It’s a good day for gun owners in the U.S.-controlled Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI).

A federal court ruled this week that CNMI’s “assault weapons” ban (AWB) violates the Second Amendment and actually makes semi-automatic rifles more difficult to use. The court also ruled that CNMI’s ban on rifles in calibers above .223, its ban on transporting operable firearms, and its $1,000 excise tax on handguns also violate the constitutional right to keep and bear arms.

“The individual right to armed self-defense in case of confrontation… cannot be regulated into oblivion,” said Ramona Manglona, chief judge of the U.S. District Court for the Northern Mariana Islands.

The court’s decision sets an important precedent opposing those decisions that have upheld AWBs in states like California, Connecticut, and New York. If the Supreme Court ever decides to hear a challenge to these bans, Judge Manglona’s decision might play a role.

The decision itself is worth a read. One of the most interesting sections is that which describes the “assault rifle” ban. Manglona takes a creative line of reasoning, agreeing with ban proponents that pistol grips, folding stocks, etc., make the rifle easier to handle. But then she flips the anti-gun logic on its head by pointing out that ease of use is a benefit to public safety because the vast majority of gun owners use these rifles for legal purposes:

  • “The Commonwealth argues that the ban passes intermediate scrutiny because it serves the important government interest of maintaining public safety. The Court disagrees. In fact, the evidence suggests that the banned attachments actually tend to make rifles easier to control and more accurate—making them safer to use. Because the Commonwealth’s ban does not match its legitimate and important interest, the ban fails intermediate scrutiny and will be struck down.
  • “…it appears that several of the attachments would actually make self-defense safer for everyone. To the extent that the Commonwealth worries about stray bullets striking innocent bystanders, features that make guns more accurate—as it appears most of the grips and the flash suppressor may do—actually serve public safety by making such stray shots less likely.”

Making “assault rifles” more difficult to use—whether at a public or private gun range—puts everyone at risk. While it’s still debatable how much benefit a telescoping stock or a flash suppressor provides, Manglona’s argument forces the anti-gun lobby to acknowledge that the vast majority of rifles are used for legitimate purposes. By banning the use of these attachments, anti-gunners could be putting those people at risk.

The court’s decision hasn’t stopped CNMI officials from continuing to push their agenda. The Northern Marianas governor said he will “continue to work with the legislature to amend the Special Act for Firearms and Enforcement and explore other legal avenues to ensure the safety of the public,” according to RNZ.

Whatever the ultimate outcome, the court’s decision pushes the firearms debate in the right direction and provides yet another protection against the CNMI’s violations of the Second Amendment.

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About the Author: Jordan Michaels is a new convert to the gun world. A Canadian immigrant to the United States, he recently became an American citizen and is happily enjoying his newly-acquired Second Amendment freedoms. He’s a communications professional, a political junkie, and an avid basketball fan.

{ 27 comments… add one }
  • DaveGinOly October 16, 2016, 12:52 am

    We all know that flash hiders don’t make firearms more accurate. We also know that removing them doesn’t make firearms more inaccurate. So why ban them? So why fight a ban on them? Because flash hiders do nothing to make guns more lethal, nor does their removal make them less lethal, laws that disallow the manufacture and sale of firearms with flash hiders serve not only no public safety purpose, but no purpose at all. Because of this, such laws are revealed as arbitrary. All arbitrary laws are unconstitutional; arbitrary laws are tyrannical in nature because they are nothing more or less the then imposition of raw government power (I will not say “authority”), serving no other end than to exercise power over the people for the sake of its exercise.

  • Chris Baker October 15, 2016, 9:36 pm

    Ramona Manglona, chief judge of the Supreme Court sounds pretty good right about now although, each of the restrictions infringe on our God given right to self defense. Truly all that should be needed to say is that it infringes on the rights of American citizens and is therefore a violation of the second amendment. Whether the restricted items make the gun safer or not is actually irrelevant.

  • Brian Knox October 14, 2016, 1:44 pm

    The comment directly following the identity of author states that he, because he’s now an American citizen, now is enjoying his newly-acquired Second Amendment freedom. The Constitution doesn’t grant him that freedom. It simply guarantees it against government encroachment. The author, and in fact all human beings, have the right to self defense and to bear arms as a part of being human beings. I would argue that this is a freedom given to all men from God. Those who don’t believe in God might instead say that this is simply a part of natural law. It’s very dangerous stating that the Constitution grants certain rights. The reverse corollary is that government can then take those rights away. The Constitution does not grant rights. It merely guarantees against encroachment by government of rights that we inherently possess by nature. (See Declaration of Independence)

  • Chris Jones October 14, 2016, 8:41 am

    I had no idea the Northern Mariana Islands existed or were a Commonwealth of the United States. Part of the same string of Islands as Guam apparently, but governed separately.

  • Allen Christian October 14, 2016, 8:22 am

    Assault Weapon Ban ! Assault weapons are fully automatic, are banned unless licensened by ATF. If you own an AR180 you have
    a semi-automatic .223 rifle. The anti gun idiots are calling it an assault weapon because it LOOKS like an AR18 (Armalite) rifle.
    If you can’t tell the difference then you have no business with a weapon of any kind ! The idiots did it California bck in 1970’s .
    How can they ban a weapon because it LOOKS like an assault weapon ? The politicians were the first one to start calling the
    AR180 an assault weapon and all the anti gun idiots chimed in like they were experts on weapons. They need to be educated on
    weapons before they legislate a unconstitutional law. Next they will want to paint all the semi-automatic weapons orange !

    • Curtis Simmons October 14, 2016, 9:11 am

      “Assault rifle” is a real term.
      It describes machine guns, bigger than sub machine guns and smaller than SAW or LMG.
      “Assault weapon” is a made up term for the assault weapon ban.
      I’m not sure “they” are the only ones that need a weapons education.

      • GRA October 14, 2016, 10:24 am

        I think I’ll go buy an AR180 in their miserable honor … LOL

    • Chris Baker October 15, 2016, 9:42 pm

      Actually they, the federal government, the state government, the territory government, the city government, none of them have the authority to legally restrict ANY kind of weapons as long as they are small enough and light enough for a single person to carry. The second amendment says “arms” not guns. Swords are arms, Guns are arms, stilettos are arms, clubs are arms. Any law restricting any of these and others are unconstitutional. That includes machine guns that fire full auto, It includes stinger missiles if you can carry one. The founding fathers stated clearly in their writings (see the Federalist Papers) that they wanted the citizens of this country to be as well armed as the military.

  • luvdemstillers October 14, 2016, 8:20 am

    And we shkuld trust Hitlery? After all she has done and said? You may not like Trump, but Demoncrats are truly that: demonic. Get a gun or get on board. I choose the former. And to be stupid like a fox. And another thing you hate is I am a believer in JESUS! A believer and a follower of my constitutional rights? Ruh roh rorge! Game on!

    • Z October 14, 2016, 2:52 pm

      “…Democrats are truly that: demonic.”

      Faith is all good and well but don’t cross over into believing your own fantasy is reality. Exaggeration doesn’t make the case when you’re attempting to persuade rational people of the validity of your arguments.

  • Gingerbaker October 14, 2016, 7:42 am

    Love reading all you completely typical gun nut commenters. As if Trump could do anything to make your 2nd Amendment rights more secure – he can’t – because they are already secure. As if most judges are liberal – they’re not. Like there is some evil liberal conspiracy out these to kill conservatives ( you mean liberals are NOT all weenies?!? WTF?). Some seriously stupid comments, folks, you should be proud. Because aren’t all people who support the 2nd supposed to be stupid?

    There has NEVER been a time in all of U.S. history when your gun rights were more secure. N.E.V.E.R. Yet, listen to you fucking cowards, bawling and whining about the big threat. And you call liberals “weenies”!! Take a look in the mirror – all of you. You are the biggest weenies of all. You want to vote for a complete scumbag like Trump because you are scared of losing your gun rights!!!!!!! Not just cowards, but for fuck’s sake, you are stupid too.

    • luvdemstillers October 14, 2016, 8:07 am

      Hitlery is not a scumbag? After all she has done and said? You may not like Trump, but Demoncrats are truly that: demonic. Get a gun or get on board. I choose the former. And to be stupid like a fox. And another thing you hate is I am a believer in JESUS! A believer and a follower of my constitutional rights? Ruh roh rorge!

    • Jim October 14, 2016, 9:15 am

      Ginger baker, In response to your rant: Love reading your typical liberal string of insults toward all republicans and gun owners.
      Ever wonder why conservatives really hate liberals? Because there is no talking to a liberal, no debating any subject with them. If someone disagrees or has any other opinions that conflict with the liberals views they are labeled racist, cowards, ignorant, stupid, etc…
      As to your specific statements, I agree that the 2nd amendment is relatively secure however that doesn’t mean our rights are secure. There are plenty of things Hillary can do to limit gun ownership. Laws and taxes in the name of public safety will be enacted. Legal challenges and lawsuits against gun manufacturers and likely against ammo makers as well will drive the cost of doing business to unmanageable proportions. Like cigarettes, they can start jacking the tax rate up on ammo(to pay expenses caused shootings) and like cigarettes you have a 200-500% tax rate driving the cost of a .22 round to $.50-.75cents each. Making even the cheapest recreational shooting unaffordable to most people. A tax on the guns themselves, again driving the cost out of reach for most. Enacting a law requiring gun owners to register and be registered to exercise their 2nd amendment rights would be a “common sense gun law” to most liberals yet mention voter ID and hear the screams of protest from the left.
      Neither candidate is worth a damn, Hillary is a liar and a crook, Trump is arrogant to the extreme and god knows what else. Sad that with over 300million people in this country these two are all we have to choose from.

      • Mahatma Muhjesbude October 14, 2016, 12:14 pm

        You’re right, Jim. Wait until the Ginger bread man hears the 4am flash bang in his bedroom window from exhibiting too much domestic animosity, (Hillery has already said anti-1st/A things like “they shouldn’t be allowed to talk like that’…” the next slip and slide down the slope of ‘domestic violence’ type decrees when Hellwench gets in and turbo charges the ‘ride down” –and the police state soldiers start ripping his home apart and terrorizing his family for guns because he possesses dangerous ‘hate’ propensities toward Egalitarian Conservatives and Libertarians, and then is administratively diagnosed under the regime’s latest Fiat plans as too stupid to possess firearms because he doesn’t even know that Trump is only a partial scumbag, while Hillary is a Complete Totalitarian Scumbag ‘ .
        And remember, Jim, you can always tell a Totalitarian liberal, but you can’t tell them much.

      • Chaz October 14, 2016, 7:25 pm

        Yeah, our rights have never been more secure because of Democrats , how we suffer from short term memory disorder. Just a few years ago a handful of Democrats in the ” Constitution State” said well since there could be another psychopatic boys that could steal his mom’s gun and kill some kids, we need to take all those nasty “assault weapons” away from all you Law abiding citizens. Oh’ and let us not forget that there was a certain weapons and magazine ban enacted by a particular president not long ago….wait the name is coming to me uh…. Something like uh “CLINTON.” But wait don’t read my post (btw I would not consider myself conservative by any means but definitely not “liberal” by that oxymoronic definition) but look it up, not using the Today show archives but looking at actual laws. Hillary ? Really. Again. You people are like domestic violence victims, when to you stop bending over, and.call the cops!

    • Robert October 14, 2016, 9:19 am

      You are a special kind of stupid now aren’t you? Our gun rights have never been “More safe”? The Supreme Court heller decision was a 5 to 4 split. In case simple math escapes you, that means four judges ruled against the Second Amendment as being a individual right. Two more examples would be the state of New York out right banning AR 15 and other assault type weapons as well as California also banning the same type weapons, what they consider to be high-capacity magazines and also the requirement of a background check to simply buy ammunition. So go put your ignorant uninformed head back where the sun doesn’t shine.

    • Alan October 14, 2016, 9:20 am

      You know, you are the single biggest asshat I have ever encountered on the web. Hell’s Bells, you give the name ‘Troll’ an all new meaning.
      As for stupid, I argued with you before, and you only responded to half of what I wrote. You aren’t here for any legitimate argument, you just a cowardly, sniveling, wanna be badass who thinks he has intellect, but can’t REALLY produce an intellectual argument.
      If what YOU say is true dumbass, WHY IS THE QUESTION BEING ARGUED IN A FEDERAL COURT?????!?!??
      Courts DO NOT hear cases that are NOT IN QUESTION…
      If what YOU say were true, the court would refuse to hear it, citing previous cases or a stand on Constitutional Law.
      And the fact that MANY of these cases DO go before the Courts signals that there are those ON the Court that are willing to agree with those that have questioned and even assaulted our 2nd Amendment.
      The idea of course ( to those of us with intellect, i.e. NOT you) is for the detractors of the 2nd to find a like minded Judge to take away our rights by ruling in favor of a State Militia scenario or some other such nonsense.
      Or did that NOT occur to you?
      And YOU call OTHERS stupid???????
      You’re a dolt, you haven’t the brains or intellect to master a single intelligent response, so you resort to name calling.
      The only thing baking with you is your brain, probably from your medication.

    • Tom Horn October 14, 2016, 9:37 am

      Look Troll, go back to the Oprah network where you reside.

      Read up on how the Supreme Court functions to interpret Federal Law, before you call anyone stupid.
      You got it wrong. We will vote for Trump because we don’t want to vote for a, “complete scumbag” like, Hillary.

      Did you watch the PBS biographical documentary on Hillary and Donald? Trump’s whole life has been open, blatant, what you see is what you get. Hillary’s whole political career has been secretive, covert, and self-serving. See film here:
      http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/frontline/film/the-choice-2016/

      We have had enough of covert government with Nixon, Slick Willie, and others. Who is the perfect President?
      Franklin D Roosevelt: Adulterer
      John F. Kennedy: Adulterer
      William Clinton: Adulterer, pot smoker
      Richard M Nixon: Liar, criminal
      Ulysses S Grant: Alcoholic
      Warren Harding: Adulterer
      Thomas Jefferson: Adulterer
      Andrew Jackson: Bigamist
      George W Bush: Cocaine user
      Abraham Lincoln: Mental illness (life long depression)

      Trump sure ain’t perfect, but at least we won’t have to worry about him hiding his intentions.

    • Rouge1 October 14, 2016, 10:29 am

      GingerBaker is one of those nasty dimacommie paid for trolls.

    • Gene October 14, 2016, 10:47 am

      What color is the sky on your planet? If you intend to vote for the Hildabeast, you’re even more stupid than you accuse us of being.

    • mach37 October 14, 2016, 4:10 pm

      Ginger Baker, you can’t tell me that Hillary’s published comments on restricting firearms don’t conflict with her statement that she “supports” the 2nd amendment. Every Democrat politician I have read about has threatened to undermine the 2nd amendment in every way possible if they had their way.

  • michael ryan October 7, 2016, 10:24 am

    GREAT!! Now can we start a movement to allow unlicensed LEGAL sound suppressors!!! Saving legal owners’ hearing is also important!! keep it going, this is why we need TRUMP!! We need common sense gun laws, namely more freedom of CHOICE in gun accessories for safety and ease of use. Dems only want choice if it kills babies, but not for schools, healthcare, bakeries or GUNS!!

  • Tom Horn October 7, 2016, 4:54 am

    Attention Donald Trump!

    Take note of this name Mr. Trump: Ramona Manglona, chief judge of the U.S. District Court for the Northern Mariana Islands.

    Since you will be surrounding yourself with the finest people after you’re elected POTUS, here is your first Supreme Court nominee. You can thank me later, Donald.

  • DRAINO October 6, 2016, 12:41 pm

    Imagine that…a federal judge that isn’t a liberal weenie! And from a small island, at that. Good for them. I hope things continue to get better for their 2A rights. And maybe they can lead the way for some of these socialist states like NY, Kali, and Hawaii.

  • SuperG October 6, 2016, 12:05 pm

    This judge will quietly be replaced. Common sense and an adherence to the Constitution have no place in the federal court system.

    • Joe McHugh October 14, 2016, 6:22 am

      SuperG, “The judge will be quietly replaced.” Actually, If the Hildabeast wins the election, Judge Ramona Mangkona will, most likely, suffer from a fatal “accident”. I’m thinking drowning in the surf, or stung by a poisonous jelly fish. I’m not sure if there is a high place on the islands to “fall” from.

      • Mahatma Muhjesbude October 14, 2016, 12:20 pm

        You’re right, Jim. Wait until the Ginger bread man hears the 4am flash bang in his bedroom window from exhibiting too much domestic animosity, (Hillery has already said anti-1st/A things like “they shouldn’t be allowed to talk like that’…” the next slip and slide down the slope of ‘domestic violence’ type decrees when Hellwench gets in and turbo charges the ‘ride down” –and the police state soldiers start ripping his home apart and terrorizing his family for guns because he possesses dangerous ‘hate’ propensities toward Egalitarian Conservatives and Libertarians, and then is administratively diagnosed under the regime’s latest Fiat plans as too stupid to possess firearms because he doesn’t even know that Trump is only a partial scumbag, while Hillary is a Complete Totalitarian Scumbag ‘ .
        And remember, Jim, you can always tell a Totalitarian liberal, but you can’t tell them much.

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