By Alberto Garcia
California Governor Gavin Newsom reacted to the US Supreme Court’s decision Friday to allow a Texas abortion ban to stay in place by suggesting that he will work to pass a similar law to allow private citizens to sue anyone who manufactures, distributes, or sells an assault weapon in California.
Texas passed a law in May that allows private individuals to sue anyone who “aids and abets” in performing an abortion -although the patient cannot be sued- and offers a $10,000 for to anyone who wins their case. The law is so broad that even friends of someone seeking an abortion, including a person who drives a woman to get the procedure, can be sued. The law could even allow for religious leaders who provide spiritual counsel to a woman considering an abortion to be sued.
On Friday, the US Supreme Court voted to allow the Texas law to remain in effect while it is being challenged in state court after the state’s lawyers argued the law is enforced by private citizens, not the state, so the government is not taking any action toward patients.
Using the same tactic, Newson said, he will push for new legislation to ban assault-style weapons after a federal judge overturned the State’s ban. The judge compared AR-15 rifles to “a Swiss Army knife” and said they are “good for both home and battle.” The ban remained in place while the State appeals.
“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 last night.
Newsom said he will work with the State Legislature and Attorney General Rob Bonta to pass a law to allow private citizens to sue “anyone who manufactures, distributes, or sells an assault weapon” in an effort to enforce California’s ban on assault weapons.
Similar to the Texas abortion law, Newsom said the proposed law would allow people who sue to win up to $10,000 per violation, plus other costs and attorneys fees.
“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.
Some gun advocates had predicted that the Texas law would encourage liberal states to use the same tactic to ban guns.
The Firearms Policy Coalition, a non-profit gun advocacy group, filed a brief with the Supreme Court opposing the Texas law, saying the scheme to ban abortions could lead to the banning of guns.
“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 the SCOTUS on behalf of the Firearms Policy Coalition.
Any new law proposal by Newsom would have to be passed by the two houses of the California Legislature; the Assembly and State Senate. The Legislature is on recess until early January when it will start the second year of its two-year session schedule.
The proposal would have to be passed by the Legislature before the end of its 2022 session on September 30, then signed into law by Newsom within 30 days of its passage.