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Last updateSat, 19 Oct 2019 12am







    Friday, October 18, 2019-10:02:16A.M.






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DPS chief asks court to dismiss challenge against NMI gun law

THE law-abiding citizens of the Northern Marianas have never used handguns for purposes of self-defense.

This was the position of Department of Public Safety Commissioner James C. Deleon Guerrero when he opposed through Assistant Attorney General James Zarones a motion for a summary judgment in favor of a U.S. Navy Gulf War veteran and his wife who are challenging the constitutionality of the CNMI Weapons Control Act.

Deleon Guerrero through Zarones said the federal court should dismiss the complaint of David Radich and Li-Rong Radich for lack of subject matter jurisdiction.

James Deleon GuerreroJames Deleon Guerrero

The federal court does not have subject jurisdiction over Count I of the complaint — violation of the right to keep and bear firearms — because handguns cannot be legally imported into the commonwealth, according to Deleon Guerrero.

The federal court does not have jurisdiction over the Radich couple’s claims because they have not demonstrated that they are entitled to Weapon Identification Cards, the opposition added.

Deleon Guerrero further argued that the federal court does not have subject matter jurisdiction over the claims brought by Mrs. Radich because she is not entitled to possess firearms in the commonwealth.

The federal court does not have subject matter jurisdiction over plaintiffs’ claims because the Radich couple have not attended and completed the firearm safety class required by law, according to the motion opposing summary judgment.

The Radich couple, “for a variety of reasons, cannot establish that [the federal] court has jurisdiction over their claims. Subject matter jurisdiction is a threshold matter that must be determined before the court entertains the merits of the case. If the court finds that it does not have subject matter jurisdiction, then the court must immediately dismiss the action,” Zarones said.

Zarones further argued that the “Heller-McDonald [case law] construction of the Second Amendment is not applicable to the commonwealth because it directly contradicts the intent of the framers of the Covenant.”

As to Count I, Zarones said, if the federal court finds that the Radich couple “have standing and that the subsequent interpretation of the Second Amendment by the Supreme Court controls, regardless of what the framers intended, then [Deleon Guerrero] opposes [Radich couple’s] motion for summary judgment because the Heller-McDonald [case law] construction of the Second Amendment does not require the constitutional protection of handguns in the commonwealth.”

Zarones said the “Second Amendment does not protect the right to possess handguns in the commonwealth.”  

“The Second Amendment protects the right to possess handguns in the states because of their widespread usage by the American people,” Zarones said.

Zarones said, “Handguns do not enjoy Second Amendment protection in the commonwealth because they have never been possessed or used for self-defense by the people of the commonwealth. As the Supreme Court explained, handguns are given constitutional protection because of their widespread use by the citizens of the states...If the widespread usage of handguns for self-defense justifies their constitutional protection, then it logically follows that the Supreme court would have denied constitutional protection to handguns if they had never been used by law abiding citizens for self-protection. As [Deleon Guerrero] will show, handguns have never been used by the law-abiding people of the commonwealth for the purpose of self-defense.”

Zarones said handguns have never been permitted in the CNMI. The local Weapons Control Act prohibits the possession of handguns. “As such, commonwealth law has always prohibited the possession of handguns and no law abiding commonwealth citizen has never possessed a handgun for the purposes of self-defense,” Zarones said.

Deleon Guerrero provided data to support such an assertion. Over the past 32 years, the citizens of the commonwealth registered 914 rifles, 301 shotguns, and zero handguns.

“Simply put, the data clearly demonstrates that handguns have never been ‘the preferred firearm’ in the commonwealth and the people of the commonwealth have never ‘considered the handgun to be the quintessential self-defense weapon.’ On the contrary, the citizens of the commonwealth have always enjoyed a community free of handguns,” Zarones told the federal court.

Defendant did not specifically address Count III, the violation of the right to keep and bear firearms as to Radich because it had been withdrawn from his motion for summary judgment.