California Governor Gavin Newsom decided to go full hypocrite after the U.S. Supreme Court declared that legal challenges to Texas’ new abortion law can continue, while declining to immediately strike down the new law allowing private citizens to sue abortion providers over procedures performed after 15 weeks.
On Saturday, Newsom pitched an online fit about the SCOTUS decision, vowing to enact a new California gun control law in response.
SCOTUS is letting private citizens in Texas sue to stop abortion?!
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. https://t.co/N5Iur9PEUZ
— Gavin Newsom (@GavinNewsom) December 12, 2021
It’s hard to know where exactly to start here; Newsom’s lie about the federal courts not reviewing the Texas abortion law, his lie about commonly-owned semi-automatic rifles being “weapons of war”, the laughable claim by Newsom that California’s existing ban on modern sporting rifles (and it’s pending ban on home-built firearms) saves lives, or the hypocrisy of the governor reacting to a law that he believes is unconstitutional by proposing one that’s just as legally dubious.
As constitutional law professor Jonathan Turley writes, Newsom’s latest attack on the right to keep and bear arms may be popular with California Democrats, the courts are likely to take a much dimmer view.
He points out three main issues with Newsom’s plan. Turley says the Texas law was found to be unconstitutional, “as would the California law,” and the Supreme Court allowed “pre-enforcement challenges so the California law could be challenged to avoid any ‘chilling effect’ on gun rights.”
Most importantly, according to Turley, is that Newsom restricted the law to gun manufacturers, distributors, and sellers, not a wider body of people.
“The Texas law was so menacing because it exposed such a wide array of people to potential lawsuit. It would not be quite as popular to go after gun owners or gun rights groups. Yet, Newsom is targeting business which are going to be less intimidated by such litigation costs in a law that would be clearly unconstitutional,” Turley writes.
The constitutional scholar also took issue with Newsom’s declaration, “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.” Turley argues that this statement acknowledges the law is meant to reduce gun control through an indirect channel that the state was previously unable to pass via a direct path.
“That is precisely why the Supreme Court just green-lighted pre-enforcement challenges to the Texas law and now, with the help of Newsom, the California law would collapse quickly on the same grounds.”
“With his bravado, Newsom has guaranteed that courts will strike down his law as an open ‘mockery’ of gun rights precedent and he will actually box in liberal judges and jurists in voting against the California law on the same grounds,” Turley adds.
Turley hints at one of the biggest flaws in Newsom’s argument (at least from a logical, if not constitutional perspective): California has already banned “assault weapons” and “ghost guns” (though the ban on home-built firearms has not yet taken effect). In fact, the state has repeatedly re-defined the term “assault weapon” since its first ban was put in place in the 1990s, broadening the definition each and every time.
If Newsom is now saying that the most “efficient” way to keep AR-15s and other modern sporting rifles “off our streets” is to allow residents to sue gun manufacturers, distributors, and sellers… what does that tell us about the efficacy of California’s existing gun control regime?
Now, I don’t think that Newsom intentionally wanted to undercut all of the gun laws that are already in place in California; whether the existing “assault weapons” ban, the 10-day waiting period, microstamping mandates, or many others. I just don’t think he’s all that bright, and didn’t really think through the implications of his demand for a California-style response to the Texas abortion law.
Of course, given the Democratic majorities in Sacramento there’s every reason to believe that Newsom’s bad idea will become a bad law in the next few months. The courts may not treat Newsom’s proposal too kindly (just as I think SCOTUS is likely to ultimately strike down the Texas abortion law being challenged), but the governor has made it crystal clear that he plans on making life as legally dangerous and difficult as possible for those who choose to exercise their right to keep and bear arms in self-defense.