Gavin Newsom announces plan to enact gun control measure inspired by Texas abortion law

California could be the first state to use Texas' novel legal tactics for its own ends. It likely won't be the last

Published December 12, 2021 3:08PM (EST)

California Gov. Gavin Newsom speaks during a press conference at The Unity Council on May 10, 2021 in Oakland, California. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
California Gov. Gavin Newsom speaks during a press conference at The Unity Council on May 10, 2021 in Oakland, California. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

California Gov. Gavin Newsom announced a new plan Saturday that would use the legal maneuvering Texas has employed to enact the country's most restrictive abortion ban — but instead targeting those who sell assault rifles or so-called "ghost gun" parts that allow buyers to build untraceable weapons. 

It's a novel approach that would use the same threat of vigilante lawsuits to enact a liberal priority that has long languished in Congress. Newsom's announcement also comes on the heels of a Supreme Court ruling that allowed Texas to keep its new provision in place as lawsuits against it make their way through the courts. 

In a statement released over the weekend, Newsom claimed his staff is working with both the California Legislature and the state's attorney general to draft a bill similar to Texas' S.B. 8, that would allow private citizens nationwide to file lawsuits "against anyone who manufactures, distributes, or sells an assault weapon or ghost gun kit or parts in the State of California."

"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."

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Previously, the California governor said he was "outraged" that the Supreme Court allowed Texas' six-week abortion law to stand. It's a timeframe that bans nearly all abortions, because the first six weeks of pregnancy often passes before a woman even knows she is pregnant. 

Reports suggest the high court, stacked with three members nominated by former President Donald Trump, may be leaning toward ruling in Texas' favor — effectively ending the decades of protection given to abortion rights after the landmark 1973 ruling in Roe v. Wade.

Newsom's plan to use the same legal tactic as Texas to enact his own state's policy priorities is a future at least partially predicted by Justice Elena Kagan, who has previously argued in court recently that "we would live in a very different world from the world we live in today" if S.B. 8 is allowed to stand.

"Essentially, we would be inviting states, all 50 of them, with respect to their own preferred constitutional rights, to try to nullify the law this court has laid down," she said. 

In another Tweet, Newsom argued "if that's the precedent," he would have to embrace the tactic whether he liked it or not.

"If states can now shield their laws from review by the federal courts that compare assault weapons to Swiss Army Knives, then California will use that authority to protect people's lives, where Texas used it to put women in harm's way," he wrote.

"If TX can ban abortion and endanger lives, CA can ban deadly weapons of war and save lives."

More commentary on Texas' S.B. 8 and the ongoing battle to protect abortion rights:

By Brett Bachman

Brett Bachman was the Nights/Weekend Editor at Salon.

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Related Topics ------------------------------------------

Abortion Aggregate Assault Weapons California Gavin Newsom Ghost Guns Gun Control Lawsuits Politics Sb 8 Texas