SACRAMENTO, Calif. — California Gov. Gavin Newsom, the California Governor, pledged Saturday to give private citizens the power to ban the sale and manufacture of assault weapons within the state. He cited the same authority that conservative Texas lawmakers used to prohibit most abortions after a heartbeat has been detected.
California’s ban on the sale and manufacturing of many assault-style guns has been in place for over a decade. A federal judge overturned that ban in June, ruling it was unconstitutional and drawing the ire of the state’s Democratic leaders by comparing the popular AR-15 rifle to a Swiss Army knife as “good for both home and battle.” California’s ban remained in place while the state appealed.
In Texas, Republican legislators passed this year a law prohibiting abortions following the detection of a fetal beat. This is usually around six weeks after the start of a pregnancy. The Texas law allows private citizens to enforce the ban, empowering them to sue abortion clinics and anyone else who “aids and abets” with the procedure.
Friday saw the U.S. Supreme Court allow the Texas law, which was blocked by abortion clinics to stay in place, to be kept in effect. Newsom, a Democrat supporting abortion rights was upset by the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision.
“If states can now shield their laws from review by the federal courts that compare assault weapons to Swiss Army knives, then California will use that authority to protect people’s lives, where Texas used it to put women in harm’s way,” Newsom said in a statement released by his office at 7 p.m. on Saturday.
Newsom said he has directed his staff to work with the state’s Legislature and its Democratic attorney general to pass a law that would let private citizens sue to enforce California’s ban on assault weapons. Newsom said people who sue could win up to $10,000 per violation plus other costs and attorneys fees against “anyone who manufactures, distributes, or sells an assault weapon” in California.
“If the most efficient way to keep these devastating weapons off our streets is to add the threat of private lawsuits, we should do just that,” Newsom said.
Texas’ abortion law is the subject of much legal debate. Its unusual structure has been the focus. The law also limits the ability to challenge it in court. Texas lawmakers gave responsibility to enforce the law to individuals and not to state officials.
It raised complex questions about the possibility of anyone suing the Federal Court, as that is where most abortion restrictions are challenged.
Newsom’s gun proposal would first have to pass California’s state Legislature before it could become law. The Legislature has been scheduled to meet again in January, although it isn’t in session right now. Except for exceptional circumstances, it usually takes eight months to get new bills passed by the Legislature.
State Sen. Brian Dahle, a Republican from Bieber, would oppose the plan but predicted it could probably pass California’s Democratic-dominated state Legislature. According to him, the proposal was most likely an attempt by Newsom to gain support from his progressive voters in order for him and his family to run for the presidency.
“The right to bear arms is different than the right to have an abortion. A constitutional amendment does not grant the right to an abortion. So I think he’s way off base,” Dahle said. “I think he’s just using it as an opportunity to grandstand.”
But Newsom’s Saturday night declaration is a fulfilled prophecy for some gun rights groups who had predicted progressive states would attempt to use Texas’ abortion law to restrict access to guns. That’s why the Firearms Policy Coalition, a nonprofit group that advocates for gun rights, filed a brief with the U.S. Supreme Court opposing the Texas law.
“If Texas succeeds in its gambit here, New York, California, New Jersey, and others will not be far behind in adopting equally aggressive gambits to not merely chill but to freeze the right to keep and bear arms,” attorney Erik Jaffe wrote on behalf of the Firearms Policy Coalition.