Stunning Victory for Gun Rights in Northern Mariana Islands

In a quintuple victory for Second Amendment rights, a federal judge last week overturned a ban on carrying handguns in public, a ban on so-called assault weapons, caliber restrictions for long guns, a $1,000 tax on handguns, and a requirement that all guns be registered with the government. “The individual right to armed self-defense in case of confrontation…cannot be regulated into oblivion,” declared Ramona Manglona, chief judge of the U.S. District Court for the Northern Mariana Islands.

In her September 28 ruling, Manglona notes that the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit (which includes the Northern Mariana Islands) has said “there is no constitutional right to carry a concealed weapon in public.” But the 9th Circuit has not addressed the broader question of whether the right to armed self-defense recognized by the Supreme Court in the landmark 2008 case District of Columbia v. Heller extends beyond the home. Adopting the historical analysis and logic that the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit applied when it overturned an Illinois ban on carrying guns in 2012, Manglona concludes that “the Second Amendment, based on its plain language, the history described in Heller I, and common sense, must protect a right to armed self-defense in public.” While “the right of armed self-defense, including in public, is subject to traditional limitations,” she says, “it is not subject to elimination.” Since the law enforced by the Commonwelath of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) “completely destroys that right,” Manglona writes, “it is unconstitutional regardless of the level of scrutiny applied, and the Court must strike it down.”

Manglona emphasizes that she is upholding “the individual’s right to carry and transport an operable handgun openly for self-defense outside the home” (emphasis added). That’s because the “traditional limitations” she mentions include bans on concealed weapons. As the Supreme Court noted in Heller, “the majority of the 19th-century courts to consider the question held that prohibitions on carrying concealed weapons were lawful under the Second Amendment or state analogues.” Although the open carrying of guns may clash with contemporary sensibilities, it is the mode of publicly bearing arms that is most clearly protected by the Second Amendment.


Judge Ramona Manglona, U.S. District Court, Northern Mariana Islands

Judge Ramona Manglona, U.S. District Court, Northern Mariana Islands

The Northern Mariana Islands is located in Pacific Ocean, 5,793 miles West of Los Angeles. It consists of 183.5 square miles, 2010 population of 53,883. The vast majority of the population resides on SaipanTinian, and Rota.
Appeals from District Court go the U.S. 9th Circuit, which has at least one Judge, Alex Kosinski, who probably agrees with Judge Manglona. The rest of them probably don’t. The  powerful logic and reasoning of her decision make give them pause, we can hope.  Much of her opinion is based upon cases in the 7th Circuit (Chicago) which she says have not been overruled by the Supreme Court nor are they in conflict with any 9th Circuit rulings. Maybe there is hope.
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