SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF/AP) — Thwarted by a federal court setback, Gov. Gavin Newsom ordered his staff to use the legal arguments successfully used by Texas before the Supreme Court to defend its abortion ban to come up with a law that would prohibit ownership of assault weapons in California.
In a statement released Saturday night, Newsom voiced his outrage over the high court decision in the Texas case.READ MORE: Film Fans Tell New Castro Theatre Managers To Keep It Reel
“I am outraged by yesterday’s U.S. Supreme Court decision allowing Texas’s ban on most abortion services to remain in place, and largely endorsing Texas’s scheme to insulate its law from the fundamental protections of Roe v. Wade,” he said. “But 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.”
“I have directed my staff to work with the Legislature and the Attorney General on a bill that would create a right of action allowing private citizens to seek injunctive relief, and statutory damages of at least $10,000 per violation plus costs and attorney’s fees, against anyone who manufactures, distributes, or sells an assault weapon or ghost gun kit or parts in the State of 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.”
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 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.”
The state’s ban remained in place while the ruling is appealed.
Meanwhile, Republican lawmakers in Texas this year passed a law banning abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detected, which normally occurs at about six weeks into 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, the U.S. Supreme Court allowed the Texas law to remain in effect while abortion clinics sue to block it.READ MORE: Health Experts, Parents, Teachers Call for Lifting Mask Mandates Post-Omicron
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 in session now and is scheduled to reconvene in January. It usually takes about eight months for new bills to pass the Legislature, barring special circumstances.
State Sen. Brian Dahle, a Republican from Bieber, would oppose the plan but predicted it could probably pass California’s Democratic-dominated state Legislature. He said the proposal was most likely a stunt for Newsom to win favor with his progressive base of voters ahead of a possible run for president in the future.
“The right to bear arms is different than the right to have an abortion. The right to have an abortion is not a constitutional amendment. 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.MORE NEWS: UPDATE: Crews Make Progress in Big Sur Firefight; Containment at 35 Percent
“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.