Newsom's still pitching progressives on his latest gun control plan

AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster

The opposition to California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s idea to tweak Texas’ anti-abortion law and turn into a vehicle for gun control activists is stronger than the Democrat must have imagined, and there’ve been plenty of critiques coming from folks who would ordinarily be applauding the governor for his “common sense gun safety measure”. Instead, the editorial board of the Los Angeles Times (among others) have panned Newsom’s plan, and none of the major gun control groups have rushed to embrace Newsom’s proposal. A spokesperson for Everytown for Gun Safety, for instance, called it an “interesting approach” that the organization will “examine further” but declined to offer a full-throated endorsement of Newsom’s plan.

The governor clearly has some work to do if he’s going to convince his fellow Democrats that the best way to respond to an anti-abortion law they think is unconstitutional is to use the law as the basis for their own anti-gun measures, which explains why Newsom’s taken to the pages of the Washington Post to make his pitch.

Let me be clear: The Supreme Court should never have opened this door in the first place. As Justice Sonia Sotomayor put it, it’s “madness” to approve a state law like Texas’s “that chills the exercise of a constitutional right and aims to evade judicial review.” California opposed Texas’s ploy at the Supreme Court, and I wish the court had agreed with us. But so long as this door is open to states, we’re going to walk through it, too, to protect Californians and bolster our common-sense gun laws that have come under attack. It’s not “taking the low road” to seize an opportunity to keep people safe.

This is pure political pandering on the part of Newsom, and its logic (or lack thereof) falls flat. The governor is arguing that the Texas law is unconstitutional, that the Supreme Court has erred in not striking it down immediately, and so therefore California should adopt the same supposedly unconstitutional strategy in order to “keep people safe.” And that’s probably the strongest part of his argument, which gets much worse from there.

And unlike the Texas law, my proposal would not chill a constitutional right. No binding precedent has ever held that weapons of war or homemade “ghost guns” that evade basic regulation are constitutionally protected. Texas’s law, on the other hand, blatantly flouts Roe v. Wade’s fundamental protections.

Not to get into the legal weeds here, but Roe v. Wade in essence found a right to an abortion in the first trimester of a woman’s pregnancy implied by the implied right to privacy found in the Fourth Amendment. The right to keep and bear arms, on the other hand, is an explicitly enumerated right of the people found in the Bill of Rights.

The Texas law may very well be found to be unconstitutional by the Supreme Court, because regardless of what Newsom claims, the law isn’t a settled matter before the Court. The justices have weighed in on the ways the law can be challenged, but hasn’t said anything about the constitutionality of the law itself. The same is true for laws banning modern sporting rifles or unserialized, home-built firearms, though the Court has previously stated that arms that are in common use for lawful purposes are, in fact, protected by the Second Amendment.

It’s been clear all along that Newsom’s playing political games with his proposal, which has yet to be unveiled in legislative form. But the governor makes his end game even more explicit in his piece at the Washington Post by declaring his hopes that his proposal will sway a majority of the Court to side against the Texas law in question.

Maybe California’s move will lead the court to change its mind about allowing Texas’s bounty-hunter scheme. If that’s the case, women’s reproductive care across our nation would be better off. If there’s anything I’ve learned as a father of four kids, it is that sometimes you don’t realize you’ve made a mistake until you see the consequences of your actions come true.

Or maybe Congress will respond to both laws — and also Florida’s recent proposal to allow private suits against those teaching “critical race theory” — by putting an end to this chaos and making it easier to challenge these laws up front, before suits filed under those laws result in thousands of dollars in damages. But if only radical conservative interests follow Texas’s playbook, we’ll never see change.

In other words, Newsom’s latest gun control push isn’t really about guns at all, but about keeping Roe v. Wade in place. That doesn’t mean that the governor’s hostility towards legal gun ownership isn’t genuine, but in this particular instance its more a means to an end than anything else. Newsom and his fellow Democrats have already banned “assault weapons” and “ghost guns” in California, but this proposal allows him to generate some free press and cast himself as a defender of “reproductive freedom”… if not the rule of law.