California’s Gavin Newsom Vows to Ban ‘Assault Weapons’ the Same Way Texas Restricts Abortion

By Bill Pan
Bill Pan
Bill Pan
December 12, 2021 Updated: December 12, 2021

In the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s refusal for a second time to block a Texas law prohibiting most abortions, California Gov. Gavin Newsom pledged to use the Texas strategy to outlaw what his state characterizes as “assault weapons.”

The Supreme Court on Friday dismissed the U.S. Department of Justice’s challenge to the Texas law previously known as S.B. 8, which essentially bans all abortions after six weeks of pregnancy and delegates enforcement to private citizens. The vote was 8-1, with Justice Sonia Sotomayor being the sole dissenter. Sotomayor argued in her dissenting opinion that the court, by its decision, “effectively invites other states to refine” the Texas model “for nullifying federal rights.”

In response to the high court’s decision that leaves the Texas law untouched, Newsom said he has ordered his staff to work with the state Legislature and the Attorney General’s Office on a measure that would allow private citizens to sue anyone who manufactures, distributes, or sells a so-called assault weapon, firearm parts, or a firearm built from parts in California.

“I am outraged by yesterday’s U.S. Supreme Court decision allowing Texas’s ban on most abortion services to remain in place, and largely endorsing Texas’s scheme to insulate its law from the fundamental protections of Roe v. Wade,” the Democrat said in a statement released Saturday. “But 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.”

The definition of assault weapon varies from state to state, but generally refers to semi-automatic rifles such as the AR-15, the most commonly used rifle in marksmanship competitions, training, and home defense. Most modern guns, including handguns, are semi-automatic.

The term assault weapon, however, has long been criticized by Republicans and gun-rights groups as politically loaded and intentionally ambiguous.

If enacted, California’s assault weapon ban would allow statutory damages of at least $10,000 per violation plus costs and attorney’s fees, according to Newsom. Under the Texas law, individual citizens can be awarded a minimum of $10,000 for successful lawsuits against anyone who performs or assists a woman in getting an abortion after an unborn baby’s heartbeat is detected.

“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,” he said.

The Firearm Policy Coalition (FPC), a Sacremento-based Second Amendment advocacy group, said they predicted that Newsom would use the Texas model against the constitutional right to keep and bear arms, and that they are prepared to challenge policy changes he proposed head-on. The group saw a court victory in June, when the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California overturned a long-standing ban on assault weapons.

“We are prepared to litigate these important issues in state courts and then up to the U.S. Supreme Court,” the FPC said in a statement.

Bill Pan