Some asking if new California laws are constitutional

AP Photo/Michael Conroy

Following the Bruen decision, there’s a new standard for constitutionality when it comes to gun control laws. Further, it’s not an overly difficult standard for the layman to understand. The “text and history” standard is pretty straightforward, so much so that even California’s governor should be able to understand it.

Unfortunately, Newsom has no interest in the constitutionality of the state’s gun control laws.

But it seems at least some in the media there are willing to ask the question.

This week, Gov. Gavin Newsom is poised to sign a bill on his desk that would create a “standard of conduct” for the gun industry — and permit California residents, the state attorney general and local governments to sue noncompliant manufacturers, retailers and distributors.

Once signed, it’s almost certain to be hit with legal challenges. On Friday, guns rights groups sued to block a California law banning firearm companies from advertising certain weapons to minors — which Newsom had signed just the week before.

  • Chuck Michel, president of the California Rifle & Pistol Association, a plaintiff in the suit, told the Orange County Register“This law is a clear First Amendment violation of speech and assembly. … It’s really an attempt to wipe out the next generation of hunters and shooters. Politicians in Sacramento are not even trying to hide their disdain for the ‘gun culture,’ which they neither understand nor support. They want to wipe it out.”
  • Attorney General Rob Bonta’s office told Reutersit plans to “take any and all action under the law to defend California’s commonsense gun laws.”

The lawsuit is the latest chapter in a long-running feud between the gun industry and the Golden State over its strictest-in-the-nation firearm laws. But the fight seems primed to escalate following last month’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling dramatically expanding gun rights — and a growing divide between red and blue states as each side seems intent on remaking the nation in its image and litigating what residents can and can’t do in other states.

The truth of the matter is that, as Michel notes, this law violates the Constitution in all kinds of ways, and Bonta’s office’s response is especially problematic because he, like all public officials, swear an oath to support and defend the Constitution of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic.

To defend California’s gun control laws in the face of Bruen isn’t doing that. Instead, it’s setting himself up as one of those enemies he’s supposed to defend against.

Obviously, that’s a problem.

However, it’s also clear that we shouldn’t expect better out of California lawmakers. Not until the courts start slapping down this particular grade of stupidity.

We’ll have to wait and see how the courts actually rule, but it would take some weapons-grade rationalization to make the case that laws like these are perfectly justified under the “text and history” standard outlined in Bruen. I think there are judges on the Ninth Circuit who would certainly try to make that case, too. The question is if there are enough of them to make a difference.

Aug 18, 2022 5:30 PM ET