Gavin Newsom wants to used the Supreme Court’s ruling on a Texas law banning abortion to allow private citizens in California to enforce a ban on the manufacture and sale of AR-15 weapons.
The California governor pledged to empower his citizens to enforce gun laws using the same authority that the Texas law uses in banning abortions once a fetal heartbeat is detected.
California has banned the manufacture and sale of many assault-style weapons for decades. A federal judge overturned that ban in June, ruling it was unconstitutional.
The judge drew 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.
The difference, however, is that the right to bear arms is protected by the U.S. Constitution, while there is no provision within the document protecting a woman’s right to an abortion.
State Senator Brian Dahle, a Republican from Bieber, pointed this out, claiming he would oppose the plan but predicted it could probably pass California’s Democratic-dominated state Legislature.
‘The right to bear arms is different than the right to have an abortion,’ Dahle said. ‘The right to have an abortion is not a constitutional amendment. So I think he’s way off base.’
‘I think he’s just using it as an opportunity to grandstand,’ he added in claiming the proposal was most likely a stunt for Newsom to win favor with his progressive base of voters.
Republican lawmakers in Texas passed a law this year banning abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detected, which normally occurs at about six weeks into pregnancy. The law allows private citizens to enforce the ban, empowering them to sue abortion clinics and anyone else who ‘aids and abets’ with the procedure.
The Supreme Court ruled on Friday that the Texas law could remain in effect, even while abortion clinics sue to block it.
That decision incensed Newsom, a Democrat who supports abortion rights.
‘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 Saturday evening.
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.
The California governor 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 the Golden State.
‘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.
The legal fight over the Texas abortion law has focused on its unusual structure and whether it improperly limits how the law can be challenged in court. Texas lawmakers handed responsibility for enforcing the law to private citizens, rather than state officials.
The case raised a complex set of issues about who, if anyone, can sue over the law in federal court, the typical route for challenges to abortion restrictions.
Newsom’s gun proposal would first have to pass California’s state Legislature before it could become law.
The Legislature is not currently in session and is scheduled to reconvene in January. It usually takes about eight months for new bills to pass the Legislature, barring special circumstances.
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.
The Firearms Policy Coalition, a nonprofit group that advocates for gun rights, filed a brief with the U.S. Supreme Court opposing the Texas abortion 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.