California schemin': Newsom takes aim at 2A with onslaught of gun control bills

AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes

Anti-gun Democrats in California appear to have settled on their post-Bruen strategy: flooding the state with as many new gun laws as possible in the hopes that some of them will actually be upheld by the courts.

Gov. Gavin Newsom signed eight gun control bills into law on Thursday; almost all of them aimed at legal gun owners, manufacturers, and retailers. From the governor’s press release:

  • AB 228 by Assemblymember Freddie Rodriguez (D-Chino) – Requires the Department of Justice, beginning January 1, 2024, to conduct inspections of dealers at least every three years, except for a dealer whose place of business is located in a jurisdiction that has adopted an inspection program.
  • AB 311 by Assemblymember Christopher Ward (D-San Diego) – Prohibits the sale of firearm precursor parts on the property of the 22nd District Agricultural Association, the Del Mar Fairgrounds.
  • AB 1769 by Assemblymember Steve Bennett (D-Ventura) – Prohibits the sale of any firearm, firearm precursor part, or ammunition on the property of the 31st District Agricultural Association, the Ventura County Fair and Event Center.
  • AB 1842 by Assemblymember Freddie Rodriguez (D-Chino) – Prohibits licensed firearms dealers from charging more than 5 percent of the purchase price of the firearm as a restocking or other return-related fee when the purchase of the firearm is canceled by the buyer within 10 days of the application, with an exception for special order firearms.
  • AB 2156 by Assemblymember Buffy Wicks (D-Oakland) – Expands the prohibitions on the manufacture of firearms without a state license including reducing the number of guns a person may manufacture without a license and prohibiting the use of a three-dimensional printer to manufacture any firearm without a license.
  • AB 2239 by Assemblymember Brian Maienschein (D-San Diego) – Creates a 10-year prohibition on the possession of firearms for individuals convicted of child abuse or elder abuse.
  • SB 906 by Senator Anthony Portantino (D-La Cañada Flintridge) – Requires local educational agencies to annually provide information to parents about California’s child access prevention laws and laws relating to the safe storage of firearms; requires school officials to report to law enforcement any threat or perceived threat of a homicidal act; and requires law enforcement or the school police to conduct an investigation and threat assessment, including a review of the Department of Justice’s firearm registry and a search of the school and/or student’s property by law enforcement or school police, if certain conditions are met.
  • SB 915 by Senator Dave Min (D-Costa Mesa) – Prohibits the sale of firearms, firearm precursor parts and ammunition on state property, as specified.

These bills are in addition to almost a dozen pieces of legislation that Newsom signed shortly after the Bruen decision was handed down, and he’s not done yet. The governor has already approved legislation designed to make it easier to sue companies in the firearms industry over their marketing practices, and now he’s set to sign a bill that’s modeled on Texas’ abortion law allowing private citizens to sue abortion providers in the state.

It aims to bury those who deal in banned guns in litigation. Awards of at least $10,000 per weapon, and legal fees, will be offered to plaintiffs who successfully sue anyone who imports, distributes, manufactures or sells assault-style weapons, .50-caliber rifles, guns without serial numbers or parts that can be used to build firearms that are banned in California.

“No one is saying you can’t have a gun,” said State Senator Bob Hertzberg, a veteran San Fernando Valley Democrat who was tapped by the governor to craft and shepherd the complex legislation. “We’re just saying there’s no constitutional right to an AR-15, a .50-caliber machine gun or a ghost gun with the serial number filed off.”

On Friday, Mr. Newsom took out ads in three Texas newspapers rebuking Governor Abbott, spending $30,000, according to campaign spokesman Nathan Click. The full-page spread replaces the word “abortion” with “gun violence” in an Abbott quote about Texas’ abortion law. It also calls the gun enforcement legislation “California’s answer to Texas’ perverse bill that placed bounties on doctors and patients.”

I have a feeling that Hertzberg is going to be soundly disappointed when he learns what exactly the Second Amendment protects. It’s also telling that the governor’s hand-picked author of his tit-for-tat with Texas either doesn’t have a clue or doesn’t care about being accurate or honest with his descriptions. The .50-caliber rifles that Hertzberg references are bolt-action, not belt-fed machine guns, and filing off serial numbers of firearms is a a crime under federal law. Building your own unserialized gun, however, is not.

Once Newsom signs this bill into law there will likely an immediate court challenge, though California Rifle & Pistol Association president Chuck Michel notes that the bill is “intended to make it impossible to file a Second Amendment challenge to an unconstitutional gun control law,” which Michel says is unconstitutional in and of itself. Still, I expect that we’ll still see at least an attempt to overturn the law, and we could see some strange bedfellows emerge in opposition. Pro-2A organizations have already pilloried the bill, as you’d expect, but the fact that the ACLU has also objected is somewhat surprising.

“The problem with this bill is the same problem as the Texas anti-abortion law it mimics: It creates an end run around the essential function of the courts to ensure that constitutional rights are protected,” the A.C.L.U. said in a letter opposing California’s legislation. The group also charged that the legislation would “escalate an ‘arms race’” in creative legal attacks on politically sensitive issues including contraception, gender-affirming care and voting rights.

A recent N.R.A. legislative update said that on this and several other gun bills, they were “looking at all available options including litigation.”

In the meantime, Mr. Hertzberg said, Democrats will use all available tools.

“I don’t agree with the Supreme Court,” he said, “but if Texas is going to use this legal framework to harm women, then California is going to use it to save lives by taking illegal guns off the streets.”

This isn’t about saving lives. It’s about scoring points with progressives ahead of a potential run for president in 2024. Newsom wants Democrats to know he’s a “fighter”, and it’s going to be up to gun owners and Second Amendment advocates to point out that he’s picking a fight with the Constitution and the exercise of the fundamental right of self-defense at the same time his cronies are busy returning convicted killers to the streets after serving less than 10% of their sentence.

Aug 18, 2022 5:30 PM ET