Newsom wants Democrats to fight fire with fire, starting with a gun bill

SACRAMENTO — On a Saturday night in December, Governor Gavin Newsom of California was so frustrated with a Supreme Court ruling allowing Texas residents to sue abortion providers that he took to social media directly to ask for legislation allowing private citizens to apply the weapon of their own state. laws.

It sounded so tit for tat that many Californians wondered if he was just trying to ramp up one of his favorite foils, Governor Greg Abbott of Texas. Others doubted he was serious because it would have meant adopting a bounty enforcement system he considered legally dubious.

Seven months later, Mr. Newsom is not only about to sign the bill, he has leaned deeper into his rhetoric against Republicans than ever before. He ran an ad this month in Florida attacking the state’s Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis, a potential 2024 presidential candidate. He chastised other states for banning abortion and tore up the Court supreme for its recent decisions overturning Roe v. Wade and giving Americans a broad right to arm themselves in public.

Although he has repeatedly insisted he has no intention of running for the White House in 2024, Mr Newsom’s actions sometimes seem to belie his claims. The Florida ad — a spot for $105,000 more in free publicity — turned heads in national political circles. So did his visit to Washington this month and his statements this spring that fellow Democrats were responding too meekly to Republican moves.

“I think he realizes the Democrats are hungry for a hero,” said Kim Nalder, a political science professor at California State University in Sacramento. “He’s building a profile as a left-leaning alternative to this aggressive politics we’ve seen from Republicans in recent years.”

No bill better encapsulates Mr. Newsom’s fighting attitude than the bill co-opting an anti-abortion tactic from Texas to enforce California’s bans on assault weapons and ghost weapons.

It aims to bury those who sell banned weapons in litigation. Rewards of at least $10,000 per weapon and legal costs will be offered to plaintiffs who successfully prosecute anyone who imports, distributes, manufactures or sells assault type weapons, .50 caliber rifles, unnumbered firearms stock or parts that can be used. manufacture firearms banned in California.

“Nobody’s saying you can’t have a gun,” said State Senator Bob Hertzberg, a veteran Democrat from the San Fernando Valley who was hired by the governor to craft and guide 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.”

The bill is the cornerstone of a sweeping package of gun restrictions Mr Newsom is signing this month. The bills include new limits on advertising firearms to minors; tighter restrictions on unregistered “ghost weapons”; and a 10-year firearms prohibition for those convicted of child abuse or elder abuse.

“It’s time for us to stand up”, Mr. Newsom said end of june after the court struck down a New York law, similar to California’s, that strictly limited “public transportation” permits. He then said that California anticipated the decision and was revising state law to compensate for “this radicalized and politicized Supreme Court.” He had 16 gun bills on his desk, he said, and he planned to sign them all.

The California laws come as mass shootings have intensified pressure to act on gun violence, as the death toll has risen this year from Buffalo to Uvalde, Texas. Last month, President Biden signed the most significant gun violence legislation to clear Congress in nearly three decades, expanding the background check system for gun buyers under 21 and putting setting aside millions of dollars for states to enact “red flag” laws that allow authorities to temporarily confiscate firearms from people deemed dangerous.

But the congressional response, limited by a powerful gun lobby and deep partisan polarization, falls far short of the comprehensive solutions that many scholars say are needed. And the 6-3 conservative majority on the Supreme Court signaled a trend not just to preserve, but to further expand gun rights.

This has left Democratic-led states to seek their own solutions. The research extended beyond gun violence policies, as court rulings have upended reproductive rights and endangered LGBTQ protections and other civil liberties. Increasingly, the left’s charge has been led by Mr Newsom, who has had political capital to spare since last year when he crushed a Republican-led recall.

Dan Schnur, a former Republican strategist who now teaches political science at the University of Southern California and the University of California, Berkeley, said the governor’s motives were easy to deduce: Mr. Newsom thinks his ” California Way” is a success, and using a national platform to call out Republicans is helping rally voters in the many media markets across his huge state.

Additionally, Mr. Schnur said, “He’s running for president.”

Mr Newsom said he had “sub-zero interest” in the White House. “But just being seen as a player on the national stage serves him, even if he never runs,” Schnur said. “Mario Cuomo has been playing this game for years.”

California’s gun laws are among the strictest in America, helping the state offer one of the lowest gun death rates in the country. In 2020, the state’s gun death rate was about 40 percent lower than the national average, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Public Policy Institute of California determined that Californians are about 25% less likely to die en masse. shootings, compared to residents of other states.

California gun policy, however, has been strained as conservative federal judges, many appointed by the Trump administration, have taken an increasingly hard line on Second Amendment rights.

California’s gun bounty law is expected to face legal challenges that could ultimately land in the Supreme Court. The measure won’t take effect until next year and includes a legal trigger that will automatically invalidate it if the courts strike down its Texas underpinnings. The National Rifle Association and other gun advocates have argued that current state law already provides remedies against illegal activities by gun manufacturers and dealers in California.

The same groups argued from the outset that the measure’s bounty program could — and would — limit the Second Amendment, and the American Civil Liberties Union echoed their concerns.

“The problem with this bill is the same as the Texas anti-abortion law it mimics: it creates a termination around the essential function of the courts to ensure constitutional rights are protected,” the ACLU said. in a letter opposing the California legislation. . The group also accused the legislation of “escalating an ‘arms race'” in creative legal attacks on politically sensitive issues, including contraception, gender-affirming care and voting rights.

A recent legislative update from the NRA said that on this bill and several other gun bills, they were “considering all available options, including litigation.”

In the meantime, Hertzberg said, Democrats will use every tool available.

“I disagree 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 removing illegal street guns.”

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