California Gov. Gavin Newsom on Saturday pledged to empower private citizens to enforce a ban on the manufacture and sale of assault weapons in the state, citing the same authority claimed by conservative lawmakers in Texas to outlaw most abortions once a heartbeat is detected. The author of the law—state Sen. Bryan Hughes—was dismissive of Newsom’s effort to restrict gun rights by way of Texas’ legal strategy and expressed his doubt that this enforcement mechanism would be “effective against firmly established constitutional rights.”
On Friday, the U.S. Supreme Court allowed a Texas law banning abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detected to remain in effect while abortion clinics sue to block it. The law allows private citizens to enforce the ban, empowering them to sue abortion clinics and anyone else who “aids and abets” with the procedure.
Gavin Newsom, a Democrat who supports abortion rights responded to the decision by announcing that he has directed his staff to work with the state’s Legislature and its Democratic attorney general to pass a law that would let private citizens sue to enforce California’s ban on assault weapons. Newsom said people who sue could win up to $10,000 per violation plus other costs and attorneys fees against “anyone who manufactures, distributes, or sells an assault weapon” in California.
“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,” Newsom said in a statement released by his office at 7 p.m. on Saturday. His comment about “Swiss Army knives” was a reference to a court ruling earlier this year. In June, a federal judge overturned California’s three-decade-old ban on the manufacture and sale of many assault-style weapons, comparing the powerful guns, frequently used in mass shootings, to military pocketknives and deeming it unconstitutional.
Hughes responded to Newsom’s announcement on Monday. “I would tell Gov. Newsom good luck with that. If California takes that route, they’ll find that California gun owners will violate the law knowing that they’ll be sued and knowing that the Supreme Court has their back because the right to keep and bear arms is clearly in the Constitution, and the courts have clearly and consistently upheld it.”