$1000 Gun Excise Tax, Other Measures Struck Down

$1000 Gun Excise Tax, Other Measures Struck Down
The Honorable Ramona Manglona, left, has been the presiding judge of the District Court for the Northern Mariana Islands since 2011.photo from guns.com

Back in April we reported that the Mariana Islands Commonwealth, a U.S. Territory, tried to ban handguns. When that ban was smacked down by a Federal Judge as unconstitutional, the Commonwealth’s government decided to create a $1,000 excise tax on all handguns sold in the territory, making them prohibitively expensive. http://www.range365.com/1k-tax-on-handguns-in-us-territory

This week, a federal ruling issued by Chief Judge Ramona Manglona struck down the excise tax, along with a handgun registration scheme and a ban on "assault weapons" and public carry, according to this story from guns.com.

Manglona sided with large parts of the plaintiff’s argument challenging gun control legislation lawmakers adopted after the court overturned a 40-year-old handgun man in the Commonwealth in March.

Regarding the $1,000 gun tax, Manglona wrote that charging such a high tax on products that sell in the $250-$750 price range, making the tax in most cases more than the price, was punitive and served no legitimate interest—especially considering the current minimum wage in the Commonwealth is $6.50 an hour and has a history of alleged exploitations, including recent claims of sweatshops and child labor. The Commonwealth, which is exempt from U.S. labor laws, is still recovering after many of the factories were closed from 2005 to 2009.

"The Court agrees with Murphy that the tax places an excessive burden on the exercise of the right of law-abiding citizens to purchase handguns for self-defense without a corresponding important government interest. Accordingly, the law cannot stand," she said in the story. "The government need not arm the poor, but it cannot impose uncommon burdens on their ability to exercise their fundamental constitutional rights."

But that wasn’t all.

“The law, dubbed Special Act for Firearms Enforcement, imposed sweeping gun control measures, licensing schemes and strict rules regarding how one carries and secures firearms. But Saipan resident and U.S. Army veteran Paul Murphy challenged the law after he had both a rifle and handgun confiscated by the Department of Public Safety despite acquiring a license to collect firearms.”

“In her 55-page ruling, Manglona struck down a handgun registration scheme. ‘[B]ecause only a minority of jurisdictions have adopted firearm registration laws — even to this day — the Commonwealth’s firearm registration law cannot be presumptively lawful,’ she said.”

Next, Manglona took on the arbitrary rules on what constitutes an “assault weapon.”

In her ruling, she clarified that rifle attachments like pistols grips that protrude beneath the action, thumbhole stocks, folding or telescoping stocks, flash suppressors, and forward pistol grips actually serve to make guns safer. In some U.S. states, these features are heavily restricted or outright banned.

"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," Manglona said in her ruling.

Finally she took on the Commonwealth’s ban on public carry of any kind, saying plainly: “The Court finds that the Second Amendment secures a right to bear arms for self-defense in public. Because SAFE completely destroys that right, it is unconstitutional regardless of the level of scrutiny applied, and the Court must strike it down."

However, Manglona did uphold a ban on magazines holding more than 10 rounds, a safe storage requirement for firearms, and a mandate that gun owners should be licensed.