What does the government do when it can’t ban guns outright? It makes them financially unfeasible to own.
The Commonwealth Senate of the Northern Marianas Islands passed a $1,000 handgun tax last week, which is now awaiting Gov. Ralph D.G. Torres’s expected signature.
The tax comes just weeks after Chief Judge Ramona Villagomez Manglona of the U.S. District Court for the Northern Mariana Islands ruled that the territory’s 40-year handgun ban was unconstitutional.
According to a report from Guns.com, the judge ruled that because the American people have “overwhelmingly chosen handguns as their principal means of self-defense,” and the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas Islands is a U.S. territory, “the Second Amendment protects that right here as well.”
The Commonwealth legislature responded by imposing every restriction they could invent short of a total ban. According to the Guns.com report, the bill that imposes the $1,000 handgun tax will also establish the following:
- Gun free zones around schools, government buildings and places of worship;
- Mandatory use of gun locks for firearms not in use;
- A prohibition on the carry of firearms outside of the home for self-defense;
- Mandatory licenses to possess firearms or ammunition;
- An “assault weapon” ban similar to those in California and New York;
- A prohibition against centerfire rifles in a caliber larger than .223 and shotguns in a caliber larger than .410 gauge;
- A prohibition against magazine size larger than 10 rounds;
- A total prohibition against Title II firearms such as suppressors, short barreled rifles and machine guns.
The Marianas Variety reported that Sen. Paul A. Manglona voiced support for the tax in the Senate, saying it would decrease the expected number of handguns coming into the island.
Pro-Second Amendment groups were quick to decry the measures as unconstitutional. “This is definitely a case of the power to tax is a power to destroy a right,” Second Amendment Foundation Executive Director Alan Gottlieb told Guns.com Wednesday. “Most people in the CNMI cannot afford this tax and will not be able to exercise their rights.”
Gottlieb is not exaggerating. Per capita GDP in the Commonwealth is only $13,300 per year, which means the tax on a single handgun would cost the average resident nearly 10% of his or her total yearly income. The tax is, essentially, a handgun ban in a different form and denies most Commonwealth citizens their Second Amendment right to self-defense.
Before residents of the continental U.S. get too high and mighty, they should keep in mind that Washington, D.C., has pulled similar stunts.
Most gun enthusiasts are aware of the $200 tax stamp on suppressors, machine guns, and short-barreled rifles. What some may not know is that this $200 tax stamp has not changed in the 82 years since it was first instituted by the National Firearms Act of 1934. In 1934, that tax would have been the equivalent of $3,583 today.
The $1,000 handgun tax in the Marianas Islands proves the extent to which our government officials can go while technically staying within the letter of the law. If we want to maintain our Second Amendment rights, we have to fight and win these battles—whether on an island in the Pacific or in our nation’s capital.