Newsom to sign bill allowing residents to sue for illegal guns

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SACRAMENTO — On a Saturday night in December, Governor Gavin Newsom of California was so frustrated with a Supreme Court ruling allowing Texas residents to sue abortion providers that he took to social media directly to ask for legislation allowing private citizens to apply the weapon of their own state. laws.

It sounded so tit for tat that many Californians wondered if he was just trying to ramp up one of his favorite foils, Governor Greg Abbott of Texas. Others doubted he was serious because it would have meant adopting a bounty enforcement system he considered legally dubious.

Seven months later, Mr. Newsom not only signed the bill on Friday, he leaned into his anti-Republican rhetoric more than ever. He ran ads in Florida and Texas attacking Republican state governors Ron DeSantis and Mr. Abbott. He chastised other states for banning abortion, as well as tore up the Supreme Court for its recent rulings overturning Roe v. Wade and giving Americans a broad right to arm themselves in public.

While Mr Newsom has repeatedly insisted he has no intention of running for the White House in 2024, his actions sometimes seem to belie his statements. Florida’s announcement – a $105,000 spot worth more in free publicity – has turned heads in national political circles. Just like his visit to Washington this month and his statements this spring that fellow Democrats were responding too meekly to Republican moves.

“I think he realizes the Democrats are hungry for a hero,” said Kim Nalder, professor of political science at California State University, Sacramento. “He’s building a profile as a left-leaning alternative to this aggressive politics we’ve seen from Republicans in recent years.”

No bill better encapsulates Mr. Newsom’s fighting attitude than the bill co-opting an anti-abortion tactic from Texas to enforce California’s bans on assault weapons and ghost weapons.

Senate Bill 1327 aims to bury those who sell banned firearms in litigation. Rewards of at least $10,000 per weapon and legal costs will be offered to plaintiffs who successfully prosecute anyone who imports, distributes, manufactures or sells assault type weapons, .50 caliber rifles, unnumbered firearms stock or parts that can be used. manufacture firearms banned in California.

“Nobody’s saying you can’t have a gun,” said State Senator Bob Hertzberg, a veteran Democrat from the San Fernando Valley who was hired by the governor to craft and guide the complex legislation . “We’re just saying there’s no constitutional right to an AR-15, a .50 caliber machine gun, or a ghost gun with the serial number filed.”

The governor and Senator Hertzberg see SB 1327 as a way to test the Supreme Court, arguing that justices cannot overturn California’s law if it leaves Texas abortion law standing. The situation also presents a compelling opportunity for Mr. Newsom to criticize Texas on the national stage.

On Friday, Mr. Newsom ran ads in three Texas newspapers berating Governor Abbott, spending $30,000, according to campaign spokesman Nathan Click. The full-page spread replaces the word “abortion” with “gun violence” in a quote from Abbott about Texas abortion law. He also calls the gun enforcement legislation “California’s response to the perverse Texas bill that gave bonuses to doctors and patients.”

Mr. Abbott’s office responded by attacking the business climate in California. “Governor Newsom should be focused on all the jobs and businesses that leave California and come to Texas,” Renae Eze, Mr. Abbott’s press secretary, said in a statement.

The California bill is the cornerstone of a sweeping package of gun restrictions Mr. Newsom signed into law this month. New laws include new limits on advertising firearms to minors; tighter restrictions on unregistered “ghost weapons”; and a 10-year firearms prohibition for those convicted of child abuse or elder abuse.

Mr. Newsom signed SB 1327 on Friday at Santa Monica College, where a deadly mass shooting happened in 2013. He said he intended to sue gun manufacturers and the gun rights movement, observing that “right now, if you look at what’s going on across the country, we’re not winning. We are not making demonstrable progress.

“I assure you we don’t stop there,” Mr Newsom said. “It’s time to put them on the defensive. We are tired of being on the defensive in this movement.

The California laws come as mass shootings have intensified pressure to act on gun violence, as the death toll has risen this year from Buffalo to Uvalde, Texas. Last month, President Biden signed the most significant gun violence legislation to clear Congress in nearly three decades, expanding the background check system for gun buyers under 21 and putting setting aside millions of dollars for states to enact “red flag” laws that allow authorities to temporarily confiscate firearms from people deemed dangerous.

But the congressional response, limited by a powerful gun lobby and deep partisan polarization, has fallen far short of the comprehensive solutions that many gun violence researchers feel are necessary. And the 6-3 conservative majority on the Supreme Court signaled a trend not just to preserve, but to further expand gun rights.

This has left Democratic-led states to seek their own solutions. The research extended beyond gun violence policies, as court rulings have upended reproductive rights and endangered LGBTQ protections and other civil liberties. Increasingly, the left’s charge has been led by Mr Newsom, who has had political capital to spare since last year when he crushed a Republican-led recall.

Dan Schnur, a former Republican strategist who now teaches political science at the University of Southern California and the University of California, Berkeley, said the governor’s motives were easy to deduce: Mr. Newsom thinks his ” California Way” is a success, and using a national platform to call out Republicans is helping rally voters in the many media markets across his huge state.

Additionally, Mr. Schnur said, “He’s running for president.”

Mr Newsom said he had “sub-zero interest” in the White House. “But just being seen as a player on the national stage serves him, even if he never runs,” Schnur said. “Mario Cuomo has been playing this game for years.”

California’s gun laws are among the strictest in America, helping the state offer one of the lowest gun death rates in the country. In 2020, the state’s gun death rate was about 40 percent lower than the national average, according to the Centers for Disaster Control and Preventionand the California Institute of Public Policy determined that Californians are approximately 25% less likely to die in mass shootings, compared to residents of other states.

California gun policy, however, has been strained as conservative federal judges, many appointed by the Trump administration, have taken an increasingly hard line on Second Amendment rights.

California’s gun bounty law is expected to face legal challenges that could ultimately land in the Supreme Court. The measure won’t take effect until next year and includes a legal trigger that will automatically invalidate it if the courts strike down its Texas underpinnings.

Sam Paredes, executive director of the Gun Owners of California, said California’s legal scheme was vague and unconstitutional, and he predicted it would soon be legally struck down.

“This is an absolute tantrum that the governor is throwing because the Supreme Court chose not to suspend Texas law,” he said.

Paredes said a coalition of gun rights groups and gun manufacturers had already begun working on a legal response to the California measure, which he said presented a crucial difference. over Texas abortion law now that Roe v. Wade had been overruled by the Supreme Court. To research.

“Unlike abortion,” he said, “the right to own and bear arms is a constitutionally protected right.”

However, gun rights groups have also argued from the outset that the California measure’s bounty program could – and would limit – the Second Amendment, and the American Civil Liberties Union has raised concerns. as to the potential implications for all constitutional protections.

“The problem with this bill is the same as the Texas anti-abortion law it mimics: it creates a termination around the essential function of the courts to ensure constitutional rights are protected,” the ACLU said. in a letter opposing the California law. The group also accused the legislation of “escalating an ‘arms race'” in creative legal attacks on politically sensitive issues, including contraception, gender-affirming care and voting rights.

A recent legislative update from the National Rifle Association said that on this bill and several other gun bills, they were “considering all available options, including litigation.”

In the meantime, Hertzberg said, Democrats will use every tool available.

“I disagree with the Supreme Court,” he said, “but if Texas is going to use this legal framework to harm women, then California is going to use it to save lives by removing illegal street guns.”

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