Federal Court Strikes Down Commonwealth’s $1000 Tax on Handguns

Paul Murphy, a U.S. Army veteran, and resident of the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) was denied his right to keep and bear arms in the CNMI since he arrived in 2007.  He followed every administrative remedy that he could.  He was denied at every turn.  He attempted to hire an attorney.  No attorney would take his case.  He filed suit in the federal district court, pro se (as his own counsel).  He (mostly) prevailed. The Northern Mariana Islands District Court, in Murphy v. CNMI Government ruled for Paul Murphy, in summary judgment. From justia.com:

Plaintiff Paul Murphy, a veteran who served honorably on active duty in Iraq and Afghanistan as a U.S. Army Ranger, seeks to validate his constitutional right to keep and bear arms for self-defense. He sues Defendants Robert A. Guerrero and Larissa Larson in their official capacities as the Commissioner of the Department of Public Safety (“DPS”) and the Secretary of the Department of Finance, respectively, to enjoin them from enforcing certain provisions of the Commonwealth’s Weapons Control Act and Special Act for Firearms Enforcement (“SAFE”).
In particular, Murphy challenges: (1) the requirement that he obtain a license and register his  weapons; (2) the restrictions on how he may store his weapons at home; (3) the ban on large capacity magazines (“LCMs”); (4) the ban on rifles in calibers above .223; (5) the ban on “assault weapons”; (6) the ban on transporting operable firearms; and (7) the $1,000 excise tax imposed on handguns. Murphy and the Commonwealth filed cross-motions for summary judgment.

The Court will grant Murphy’s motion with respect to the firearm registration requirement, the ban on rifles in calibers larger than .223, the ban on assault weapons, the ban on transporting operable firearms, and the $1,000 excise tax. The Court will grant the Commonwealth’s motion with respect to the license requirement, the restrictions on storing firearms in the home, and the ban on LCMs. 

A little explanation is necessary.  The infringements on the Second Amendment that were upheld are these:

1.  A requirement that firearms be unloaded and locked up in the home, unless carried on the person.

2. A requirement that a person obtain a license to own firearms, as long as the requirements to obtain the license are de minimus, similar to the requirements to obtain a license to own a car.

3. A ban on the ownership of Large Capacity Magazines (LCMs), defined as having a capacity of more than 10 rounds.

It is unknown whether the CNMI government will appeal this decision.

It is noteworthy that the Court struck down as obviously unconstitutional the requirement for firearms registration, limits on the caliber of firearms, the ban on carrying loaded firearms, the ban on “assault weapons”,  and the $1,000 import tax on handguns.

While I believe the Court erred in upholding the ban on large capacity magazines (it found they were unnecessary for self defense, and that there was no Second Amendment right for militia purposes).  I also believe the Court erred in upholding the requirement that firearms not on the person be locked up in the home. There the Court followed Ninth Circuit precedence in the Jackson case. The Court also followed precedent from the Circuits on licensing requirements.

Overall, the Court showed considerable intellect and honesty in dealing with the issues that it had before it.  I applaud Chief Judge Ramona Manglona for her courage in applying principle over convenience.  The CNMI is a small community. The legal community there is tiny.  The entire CNMI government has been extremely hostile to the application of the Second Amendment to their jurisdiction.

Not surprisingly, members of the government are essentially exempted from the infringements on the Second Amendment in their law.

Chief Judge Manglona showed courage in the face of intense pressure from the ruling class and local elites, perhaps even a majority of the local population. I salute her.

©2016 by Dean Weingarten: Permission to share is granted when this notice is included.
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