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.
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.