President Obama has tried numerous times to restrict Second Amendment rights throughout his presidency, usually through brief bursts following highly-publicized mass public shootings. He hasn’t managed to get any legislation passed through Congress, but he has passed a handful of executive orders on gun control. Considering that he’s still pushing for more gun control, clearly the gun control measures he’s managed to enact haven’t worked as intended.
When it comes to Obama’s remaining time in office, there are only a few grains of sand in the hourglass left. He hasn’t managed to push through any significant changes to our gun laws — but the rest of the country has managed to do just the opposite. Fear of Obama pushing through gun control has sparked record gun sales nationwide throughout his presidency — and encouraged many to relax their gun laws in response.
Now, it’s a federal judge defying Obama on guns.
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.
I (The Analytical Economist) couldn’t agree with his language more, because the strategy that gun control advocates use is to regulate them into oblivion. They can mock those who fear gun control, telling them that nobody is planning on “taking their guns” — and, technically, they’re right. If guns are to ever be banned in America, it won’t be with a single sweeping piece of legislation, it’ll be through death by a thousand cuts.
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 Commonwealth 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.”
Since Heller, no appeals court has upheld a complete ban on carrying guns in public.
Judge Manglona’s rejection of the CNMI’s “assault weapon” ban is almost as striking as her vindication of the right to bear arms, because she scrutinizes the law’s logic instead of deferring to the supposed expertise and wisdom of legislators. The CNMI law prohibits half a dozen rifle features: 1) a pistol grip under the action of the weapon, 2) a forward pistol grip, 3) a thumbhole stock, 4) a folding or telescoping stock, 5) a flare launcher, and 6) a flash suppressor. Manglona concludes that a ban on these features cannot pass “intermediate scrutiny,” which demands that a law further an important government interest through means that reasonably fit that interest.
The exorbitant CNMI tax on handguns, which raises the cost of the cheapest pistol by almost 700 percent, is also unusual. “The power to tax is not just the power to fund the government,” Manglona observes. “It is the power to destroy.” Because a $1,000 tax “comes close to destroying the Second Amendment right to acquire ‘the quintessential self-defense weapon,'” she writes, “the Court will strike it down.”
This is why good judges are so important, and why liberals want to pass through as many activist judges as possible. There’s still an empty seat on the highest court of the land, and when any gun control cases fall on their doorstep, we’ll want them to judge similarly.
[Note: This post was authored by The Analytical Economist]