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Gun control bill modeled after Texas abortion ban advances in California Legislature

Civil rights advocates are unsettled by a California gun control bill modeled after Texas’ 2021 abortion law that targets makers and sellers of untraceable ghost guns and illegal assault weapons with civil lawsuits by private citizens. The bill passed out of a key committee in the Assembly on Tuesday.

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (CN) — A California gun control bill that allows private citizens to sue gun manufacturers and sellers for dealing illegal assault weapons and ghost guns jumped another hurdle on its way to passage on Tuesday.

Senate Bill 1327, modeled after Texas’s controversial abortion law granting a private right of action against abortion providers if they perform an abortion after detecting a heartbeat, sailed out of the Assembly Judiciary committee with a vote of 8-2 and will likely advance to the Assembly floor.

Governor Gavin Newsom proposed the bill after the U.S. Supreme Court allowed Texas to enforce its “heartbeat” abortion ban.

“So long as the Supreme Court has set this precedent, California will use it to save lives,” Newsom said.

The bill would be repealed if the Texas law is invalidated.

The law, which would allow Californians to seek $10,000 in civil damages per gun, was co-written by state Senators Anthony Portantino and Robert Hertzberg, both Democrats from Los Angeles.

Speaking before the judiciary committee Tuesday, Hertzberg emphasized that SB 1327 is the governor’s bill, and that he is the vessel to ensure its passage.

“We have to invoke every decision of the Supreme Court whether we like it or not. And I don't like it. I think there are some really significant problems with it. But in the United States of America when five justices say that this is the rule of law, that becomes the rule of law,” he said. “So we are going to take advantage of it. But it becomes inoperative if the law changes or if there's some decision that could adversely affect us in that way.”

But some civil rights advocates have qualms about the law’s enforcement mechanism, which relies on private rather than state action.

Testifying in opposition on behalf of the ACLU’s lobbying arm, Shilpi Agarwal, the legal director at the ACLU of Northern California, called it an “end run around the checks and balances that we generally rely on to protect our constitutional rights.”

She said that even if the bill’s supporters have noble aims, replicating the Texas model will only encourage its proliferation.

“Eroding court oversight over laws will empower other states to cherry pick the hot-button political issues of the day and pass their own SB 8 copycat bills to address them. States have already begun to consider these bills to chill abortion rights, transgender rights and speech rights. With this bill, California is now endorsing and participating in a constitutional arms race, where the rights a person can enjoy differ from one state to another.”

Agarwal said the ACLU shares the legislature’s concerns about illegal guns, “but SB 1327 is not the law that the critical issue of gun control deserves.”

Hertzberg said he’s "sensitive" to the ACLU’s constitutional perspective, but believes the legislation serves a higher purpose.

“I get the purity of their view, but I think the obligation to protect people from gun violence is a greater obligation. The highest obligation of anybody in government is to protect the safety of folks and any tool we can use to protect us is the right thing to do.”

The vote split along party lines with committee Republicans Laurie Davies of Orange County and vice-chair Jordan Cunningham of San Luis Obispo voting in opposition.

The Assembly committee confirmed Tuesday that the bill is likely headed for a floor vote, unless it is pulled into the Appropriations committee, which reviews all bills with any fiscal impact.

Categories:Civil Rights, Government

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