Newsom's abortion billboards and the hypocrisy of California's own anti-gun border restrictions

AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes

Gov. Gavin Newsom’s latest attempt to promote himself as a Democratic culture war candidate for president in 2024 involves putting up billboards in red states promoting abortion access in California. The governor is so proud of this effort that he was gleefully tweeting about it Thursday afternoon, calling out governors from Mississippi to Ohio and letting them know he was eager to help those red state residents procure an abortion in California if necessary.

The governor’s open border policy is very different when it comes to the Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms, however. Among California’s many abuses of the Second Amendment is the fact that there’s no way for non-residents to legally carry a firearm for self-defense. The state doesn’t issue concealed handgun permits to non-residents, nor does it recognize any licenses issued by other states. Newsom may want you to exercise your “right” to an abortion in California, but don’t you dare think about bringing a gun with you for self-defense, no matter how many carry licenses you possess.

In addition to California’s ban on non-residents bearing arms, a 2016 law approved via voter referendum not only requires all in-state ammunition purchases to go through a background check, but forbids residents from buying ammo online or bringing ammunition bought out-of-state back into California. Newsom may want Ohioans to head west if they need an abortion, but if a Californian tries to bring back a box of ammunition purchased in Arizona or Oregon they’re looking at criminal charges.

This has led to some absurd situations, like gun owners in Needles, California being forced to drive 140 miles in order to buy a box of ammo because it’s illegal for them to purchase it at the gun stores ten miles away in Arizona. Thankfully, this ridiculous imposition on the rights of gun owners has been challenged in court, though whether the Ninth Circuit kicks the case back down to district court in light of the Bruen decision or issues a decision of its own remains to be seen. Last month California Attorney General Rob Bonta filed a supplemental brief with the court arguing that the ammunition restrictions could be upheld even under the test spelled out in Bruen.

Under the text-and-history standard articulated in Bruen, this Court may dispose of plaintiffs’ Second Amendment claim on the basis that the “plain text” of the Second Amendment does not protect the conduct in which the plaintiff seeks to engage. The text of the Second Amendment protects the ability of “people” to “keep” and “bear” “Arms.”

It does not afford plaintiffs a right to purchase ammunition remotely (without conducting a face-to-face transaction at a licensed ammunition vendor) or to purchase ammunition without successfully completing a background check—activities that are prohibited under the challenged Ammunition Laws. The same conclusion also applies to California’s requirements that ammunition vendors record and transmit certain information in connection with ammunition sales and ammunition theft.

Regardless of what the Ninth Circuit has to say, the state of California is still criminalizing its own residents who travel out of state to purchase ammunition, while barring legal gun owners who live outside the state from exercising their Second Amendment right to bear arms while they’re visiting. Maybe we should take up a collection to put up some billboards of our own alerting Californians to the infringements on their rights and inviting them to explore life in states with more Second Amendment security.