The Slatest

California Gov. Newsom Vows to Use Tactics of Texas Abortion Ban for Gun Control Legislation

California Gov. Gavin Newsom speaks during the Milken Institute Global Conference on October 20, 2021 in Beverly Hills, California.
California Gov. Gavin Newsom speaks during the Milken Institute Global Conference on October 20, 2021 in Beverly Hills, California. PATRICK T. FALLON/Getty Images

California Gov. Gavin Newsom said that he is “outraged” by the Supreme Court decision that allowed Texas to maintain its ban on most abortions once a heartbeat is detected. But he vowed to use it as a model to pass legislation that would give private citizens the authority to enforce a ban on the manufacture and sale of assault weapons in California. “SCOTUS is letting private citizens in Texas sue to stop abortion?!” Newsom tweeted. “If that’s the precedent, then we’ll let Californians sue those who put ghost guns and assault weapons on our streets. If TX can ban abortion and endanger lives, CA can ban deadly weapons of war and save lives.”

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Newsom had been highly critical of the Texas law, but now appears to have taken an if you can’t beat them, join them mentality. As far as Newsom sees it, by refusing to strike down the Texas law, the Supreme Court has outlined the way legislation can be written to protect it from federal court review. “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,” reads the statement published by Newsom over the weekend. The reference to Swiss Army Knives relates to the way a federal judge in June struck down California’s three-decade-old ban on assault weapons by comparing the guns to pocketknives.

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Under the new Texas law, all abortions are banned after about six weeks of pregnancy. But it isn’t the state that enforces the ban, but rather private citizens can file lawsuits against anyone who “aids or abets” an abortion after a fetal heartbeat is detected. California will use the same strategy for its anti-gun legislation, Newsom said, allowing private citizens to sue manufacturers and distributors of assault weapons as well as ghost gun kits or parts for at least $10,000 per violation. “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,” Newsom said.

Legal experts had predicted something like this would be coming after the Supreme Court’s decision to let the Texas abortion ban stand. It’s precisely why some gun rights groups had opposed the Texas abortion law. Even Chief Justice John Roberts had warned it would create a model that others could apply to different issues. Newsom is choosing to pick up the baton at a time when he has been trying to increase his national profile after beating back a Republican-led recall effort. But none of this is likely to become a reality anytime soon. Any new gun control law would first have to pass the state legislature that usually takes around eight months to get new bills approved.

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