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California OKs private civil actions against gun-makers and dealers

Governor Gavin Newsom believes the U.S. Supreme Court has no choice but to let California's law stand, since it did not strike down a similar law in Texas.

SANTA MONICA, Calif. (CN) — Taking shots at Texas and the U.S. Supreme Court in hopes of also protecting Californians, Governor Gavin Newsom signed several gun safety bills into law Friday.

The authors of SB 1327, state Senators Robert Hertzberg of Ventura and Anthony Portintino of San Fernando, modeled their bill after SB 8, a new Texas law that allows individuals to sue anyone who provides or helps in the procurement of abortion services for up to $10,000.

Newsom believes the connection will help SB 1327 survive any legal challenges up to the nation's highest court.

SB 1327 focuses on firearms that are already illegal in California and allows individuals to sue gun dealers or manufacturers that sold, transferred or made an illegal weapon used to commit a crime.

“Our message to the criminals spreading illegal weapons in California is simple: You have no safe harbor here in the Golden State,” Newsom said at a bill-signing event. "While the Supreme Court rolls back reasonable gun safety measures, California continues adding new ways to protect the lives of our kids. California will use every tool at its disposal to save lives, especially in the face of an increasingly extreme Supreme Court."

Newsom said the Supreme Court opened the door when it allowed SB 8 to stand, and California will use the opportunity to protect its citizens. The high court has delegated more authority to the states, and Newsom said it could not in principle strike down SB 1327 if it allows SB 8 to stand.

Hertzberg said the newly signed law will help to make California schools, streets and communities safer and help reduce gun violence. Newsom said other gun laws passed over the decades have helped to reduce gun violence in the state.

“With these new laws, California is protecting life, safety, and freedom. We have the strongest gun safety laws in the nation, and one of the lowest firearm mortality rates. This is not a coincidence. More guns do not make us safer — laws like these do,” California Attorney General Rob Bonta said.

Law professors across California believe there is an excellent chance SB 1327 could stand up to a legal challenges. They said the law itself does not take away any constitutional rights, as SB 8 did before Roe v. Wade was overturned last month.

According to Newsom, SB 1327 will empower 40 million Californians to enforce the law against those providing illegal weapons. But the ACLU of Northern California has concerns: In an open letter when SB 1327 was introduced, the organization said moving the power to enforce laws from the government to individuals could harm due process.

“I am sick and tired of being on the defensive,” Newsom said. “Look at the rollback of civil rights over the past couple of years by red states. It is now time to be on the offense.”

Other gun safety bills of note signed by Newsom on Friday include SB 906, which would require school districts to report any threat or perceived threat of a homicidal act to law enforcement. SB 915 bans gun shows from county fairgrounds and other state property.

Neither the National Rifle Association, California Rifle and Pistol Association, nor Firearms Policy Coalition responded to requests for comment by press time on whether they will challenge any gun laws in court.

The laws will go into effect on July 1, 2023.

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