California Gov. Gavin Newsom on Friday signed a bill into law that allows private citizens to bring civil action against anyone who manufactures, distributes, transports or imports assault weapons or ghost guns, which are banned in the state.
California Senate Bill 1327 is modeled after a Texas law that allows private citizens to bring civil litigation against abortion providers or anyone who assists a pregnant person in obtaining an abortion after as early as six weeks of pregnancy. The US Supreme Court in December allowed Texas’ six-week abortion ban to remain in effect, which prompted Newsom, who has been supportive of abortion rights and pro-gun control, to say he was “outraged” by the court’s decision and direct his staff to draft a similar bill to regulate guns.
Under the California law, a person would also be able to sue a licensed firearms dealer who “sells, supplies, delivers, or gives possession or control of a firearm” to anyone under 21 years old. It allows citizens to sue for a minimum of $10,000 on each weapon involved, as well as attorney fees.
Newsom, a Democrat, on Friday acknowledged that the law would likely be challenged in court.
“We believe this will be litigated in the Supreme Court and we believe the Supreme Court will be challenged. Because if there’s any principle left whatsoever – and that’s an open ended question – with this Supreme Court, there is no way they can deny us the right to move in this direction,” he said after signing the bill at Santa Monica College, the site of a 2013 shooting spree.
The law, introduced in February, says that it would become “inoperative upon invalidation” of the Texas abortion law, should the US Supreme Court or Texas Supreme Court strike down that measure. The California law would then be “repealed on January 1 of the following year.”
The US Supreme Court last month ruled that the Constitution protects the right to carry a gun outside the home, and in striking down a New York gun carry restriction, allowed for all sorts of gun safety laws to be challenged in federal court. The decision will likely impact legal challenges to California’s assault weapons ban, its ban on magazines holding more than 10 rounds and its prohibition on keeping people under the age of 21 from purchasing certain semi-automatic weapons.
California has passed several gun measures this month aimed at curbing gun violence in the wake of several mass shootings across the nation, including a mass shooting on July 4 in downtown Sacramento and a mass shooting in the same city just three months before.
Newsom last week signed a bill into law that makes it easier for gun violence victims or local governments to sue gun makers if the firearms were used in crimes. And the governor on Thursday signed a slew of gun legislation that would require more regulations on gun sales and dealers within the state, as well as increased information sharing between schools and law enforcement agencies.
While the Democratic governor said Friday that there is a “subzero” chance that he runs for the White House in 2024, he has doubled down lately in his challenge of other big state Republican governors, who like him are speculated presidential candidates.
Ahead of the legislation signing Friday, he ran a full-page newspaper ad in three Texas newspapers that attacked Texas Gov. Greg Abbott over his position on abortion rights and guns. “If Texas can ban abortion and endanger lives, California can ban deadly weapons of war and save lives,” Newsom said in a statement to CNN. “If Governor Abbott truly wants to protect the right to life, I urge him to follow California’s lead.”
During Friday’s signing ceremony, Newsom argued that it’s time to “act differently” in response to rights being “wiped out in real time” by red states. He said he would highlight this legislation for other governors to enact in their states.
But asked directly about a presidential bid, the governor said Friday: “Subzero, I’ll say it in five languages now. I don’t know how more often I can say it.”
“I can’t take what’s happening in this country, I can’t take the assault on liberty and freedom. I can’t take the rhetoric,” he said, adding, “This is a challenging moment. The Supreme Court has put this responsibility squarely on the doorstep of governors now, and legislative leaders, and local leaders across this country. And we have to meet this moment and we can’t do it with passivity that we’ve seen in the past.”
Senate Bill 1327 has, however, garnered criticism from the American Civil Liberties Union California Action, which warned that the measure would set a “dangerous legal precedent – not only undermining fundamental principles of due process, but eliminating the judiciary as a check and balance against the political branches, effectively unraveling the separation of powers doctrine.”
“There is no way to ‘take advantage of the flawed logic’ of the Texas law,” the ACLU California Action wrote in a letter to the legislative authors of the bill, adding, “Replicating the reprehensible Texas model only serves to legitimize and promote it, as evidenced by the copycat measures already enacted in some states, with many more pending around the country.”
CNN’s Dan Merica, Andy Rose and Tierney Sneed contributed to this report.