Hours after the 19 children and two adults were shot to death at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, California senators on Tuesday approved a bill allowing people to sue those who traffic in illegal firearms, according to the Associated Press.
Governor Gavin Newsom took the measure, which is similar to a Texas law intended to deter abortions, in response to the U.S. Supreme Court after justices gave preliminary approval to a Texas law that allows private citizens to sue anyone who provides aid or assist to anyone seeking an abortion. California’s bill would be invalidated if the Texas law was eventually ruled unconstitutional.
Democratic Senator Anthony Portantino pointed to the Texas school killings in suggesting that California use the Texas abortion law as a model for something positive, AP reports.
“Let’s use that plan for something that keeps us safe, and not something that punishes women,” he said.
California’s bill would grant people the right to file civil lawsuits against anyone who distributes illegal assault weapons, parts that can be used to make weapons, guns without serial numbers, or .50 caliber rifles. The plaintiff would be awarded at least $10,000 in civil damages for each weapon, plus attorneys fees—the same amount people can sue for with the Texas “abortion bounty.”
In addition to being a political statement, advocates argue that the bill addresses a rapidly growing issue of homemade or untraceable “ghost” guns, which has persisted despite California having some of the nation’s strictest gun laws.
“Increasing gun violence in California is not an indictment of tough laws. It is a wake-up call for adopting even more prudent gun laws to (deter) these latest illegal weapons,” Portantino said.
Earlier this month, a gunman opened fire at a lunch banquet at a Taiwanese church in Laguna Woods. Weeks before that, six people were killed and a dozen were injured after a shooting in downtown Sacramento.
Republican state Senator Andreas Borgeas spoke against the bill, arguing that legislators should empower law enforcement to deal with people who have guns illegally, though he supported other measures such as requiring that firearms have serial numbers.
“The private right of action, however, I think is taking this bill way too far,” Borgeas said, because it would encourage lawsuits by plaintiffs’ attorneys.
The gun measure passed on a 24-10 vote, with Democratic Sen. Melissa Hurtado joining the Republican opposition. Senators also approved three additional gun control bills, which have been sent to the state Assembly.
According to AP, the first measure would require schools to send parents annual reports with information on the safe storage of firearms and to immediately report threats of mass violence. The second bill would ban gun shows on state property, and the third would require dealers to install safeguards to deter illegal gun sales and thefts.
During an event at the state capitol on Wednesday, Newsom and top legislative Democrats pledged to expedite more than a dozen bills aimed at reducing gun violence in the state.
“We’re going to control the controllable, the things we have control of,” Newsom said, according to the Los Angeles Times. “California leads this national conversation. When California moves, other states move in the same direction.”
Tuesday’s shooting has also prompted Southern California law enforcement agencies to boost their presence at schools.
Los Angeles Police Department Chief Michel Moore told KTLA that his agency is working closely with school police. “We are also working diligently to investigate crimes and behaviors that can lead to future violence,” he said.
The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department and officials in Orange County said they are also increasing their presence on campuses to ensure children’s safety.
“While we believe this is an isolated incident, the Orange County Intelligence Center is monitoring the situation and we’ll have an increased presence at schools in our jurisdiction,” Orange County Sheriff Don Barnes told KTLA. “No parent should ever have to wonder if their child is safe at school.”
Sam Buenrostro, superintendent for the Corona-Norco Unified School District, said both the Corona Police Department and Riverside County Sheriff’s Department will have more patrols across the district’s campuses.
“I know many of you may feel anxious about sending your students to school tomorrow,” Buenrostro told parents. “I want to inform you of the extra safety precautions we have in place to protect the students of our District.”
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