Newsom Signs Legislation Allowing Citizens to Sue Gun Manufacturers

The governor said he believes the law will be safe from Supreme Court action because of its similarity to Texas’ abortion legislation

Gov. Gavin Newsom signed gun control legislation today that allows private citizens to sue those who provide or manufacture illegal firearms in California, including assault weapons and so-called ghost guns.

The law, which will take effect in January, was modeled after Texas’ abortion law that allows people to sue anyone who aids or abets in an abortion. Like in the Texas bill, people will receive at least $10,000 in damages for each weapon, plus attorneys fees. Senate Bill 1327, introduced by state Sens. Bob Hertzberg, D-Van Nuys, and Anthony Portantino, D-La Cañada Flintridge, was designed to mimic Texas’ measure so that the Supreme Court—which upheld Texas’ law last year—would also have to strike down Texas’ legislation if it were to overturn the California law.

Newsom said at a news conference Friday at Santa Monica College that he expects the law to be litigated in the Supreme Court, which has been sympathetic to gun rights in recent rulings.

“The Supreme Court opened the door,: Newsom said. “The Supreme Court said this was OK. It was a terrible decision. But these are the rules that they have established.”

Newsom believes there is “no principled way” that the court could overturn SB 1327 without also striking down Texas’ law.

“If they’re going to use this framework to put women’s rights at risk, we’re going to use it to save people’s lives in the state of California,” Newsom said. “That’s the spirit, the principle behind this law.”

The governor acknowledged critics who have pointed out that he criticized both the Texas law and the Supreme Court decision to uphold it, that when “they go low, you go high.” Newsom said that Democrats are not making “demonstrable progress” on gun control despite calls for stricter legislation following a slew of recent mass shootings.

“Right now, if you look at what’s going on across this country, we’re not winning,” Newsom said.

Sam Paredes, the executive director of Gun Owners of California, told the Los Angeles Times that the legislation is a “retaliation against lawful gun owners and the court because of the Texas decision,” and that the bill’s authors are being “vindictive.” Paredes said that the firearms industry will have a “strong reaction” to the bill going into law, according to the Times.

Proponents hailed the bill as a major step toward removing assault weapons and ghost guns from California streets, with Newsom calling it “the most impactful thing we’ve done in decades in the state of California to advance our efforts in gun safety.”

Ghost guns—which are unlicensed and can be self-assembled—were used during a 2013 shooting at Santa Monica College in which six people, including the shooter, died; a series of shootings in Tehama County in 2017, in which five people died; and the 2019 shooting at Saugus High School in 2019, in which three students, including the shooter, were killed and three others were injured.

“For the sake of our children, this is a common-sense step toward ensuring California streets, schools and communities continue to be among the safest in the nation,” Hertzberg said in a statement. “If Texas is going to use this legal framework to essentially outlaw abortion and harm women, all with the Supreme Court’s blessing, California is going to use it to save lives and take AR15s off our streets.”

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