California Gov. Gavin Newsom threatened last week to enact a law that would allow private citizens to seek injunctive relief against anyone who makes or sells “an assault weapon or ghost gun kit or parts in the State of California.”
The move comes in response to a Supreme Court decision allowing a Texas law to stand that permits private citizens to sue abortion providers. As many on the Left promised to do if the Court failed to block the Texas law, Newsom is attempting to use Texas’ pro-life strategy to target gun rights.
“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,” Newsom said in a statement. “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.”
The gun rights community has slammed the move as more of a political stunt than a serious attempt to curb gun-related violence. In an email to GunsAmerica, Second Amendment Foundation founder Alan Gottlieb called the “scheme” a “dead-bang loser for Gavin Newsom.”
Gottlieb does not believe such a law would stand up in court, and sees the statement as a “ploy to intimidate SCOTUS to throw the Texas abortion law out.”
The National Rifle Association also blasted the move as a “stunt.”
“Gov. @GavinNewsom misunderstands the actions of the Supreme Court – and the limits of his war on lawful gun ownership. His promise to run roughshod over the Second Amendment is little more than political theater,” the organization posted on Twitter. “He and fellow Democrats should proceed at their own peril: the American people will not tolerate another taxpayer-funded assault on constitutional freedom.”
📢NRA STATEMENT ON NEWSOM’S POLITICAL GUN CONTROL STUNT— NRA (@NRA) December 13, 2021
Gov. @GavinNewsom misunderstands the actions of the Supreme Court – and the limits of his war on lawful gun ownership. His promise to run roughshod over the Second Amendment is little more than political theater. (1/2) pic.twitter.com/ODGDECfpWt
It’s unclear precisely how far Newsom’s law would extend, and the governor’s office has offered little additional detail. His statement seems to suggest that private citizens would be able to sue both companies that make “ghost gun” kits and all other companies that manufacture parts for “assault weapons.”
Many companies that manufacture parts for AR-15s and other semi-automatic rifles could not survive a series of lawsuits that are each attached to a $10,000 fine. Newsom’s law could end the sale of all AR-15 parts in the state, since virtually all those parts could also be used in rifles the state has designated as “assault weapons.”
In its hearing of the Texas abortion law case, liberal Justice Sonia Sotomayor warned that the scheme would be used to target other “constitutional rights.”
“The Court clears the way for States to reprise and perfect Texas’ scheme in the future to target the exercise of any right recognized by this Court with which they disagree,” she wrote.
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The gun-rights community has also expressed concern. The pro-gun Firearms Policy Coalition filed a brief with the Supreme Court in support of abortion providers because they feared exactly what Newsom is threatening to do.
“If Texas’s scheme for postponing or evading federal judicial review is successful here, it will undoubtedly serve as a model for deterring and suppressing the exercise of numerous constitutional rights,” Erik S. Jaffe, a lawyer for the group, wrote in the brief. “New York is already experimenting with private enforcement of anti-gun laws and will no doubt gladly incorporate the lessons of this case to insulate its future efforts to suppress the right to keep and bear arms.”
In order to follow through on his threat, Newsom would likely need to support of the legislature, where Democrats hold a supermajority.