California Enacts Gun Control Law Modeled on Texas’ SB 8 Anti-Abortion Law
Yesterday, California enacted SB 1327, a gun control law deliberately modeled on Texas’ SB 8 anti-abortion law. The purpose of both is to evade judicial review by delegating enforcement exclusively to private “bounty hunter” litigants, thereby making it difficult to for people whose rights are targeted to file preenforcement challenges to the law:
The bill, SB 1327, allows Californians to sue those making, selling, transporting or distributing illegal assault weapons or ghost guns for at least $10,000 in damages. Gun dealers who illegally sell firearms to those under the age of 21 could also be liable for the same damages.
The law is modeled after the Texas “heartbeat act,” SB 8, which prohibits abortions as early as six weeks into a pregnancy. That law relies on private citizens filing lawsuits to enforce it by placing $10,000 bounties on doctors, providers and others involved in providing abortion care.
Legal experts had predicted that the SB 8 formula could be used beyond abortion. After the U.S. Supreme Court declined to block the abortion law last year, Newsom called on his state’s legislature to pass a similar bill around gun safety….
“If Texas is going to use this legal framework to essentially outlaw abortion and harm women, all with the Supreme Court’s blessing, California is going to use it to save lives and take AR-15s off our streets,” state Sen. Bob Hertzberg, who authored SB 1327, said in a statement.
Further driving home this point, Newsom ran full-page ads in several Texas newspapers Friday touting California’s answer to the Texas bill.
Like SB 8, California targets a wide range of people. It doesn’t simply authorize lawsuits against buyers and sellers of the weapons in question, but anyone who “within this state may manufacture or cause to be manufactured, distribute, transport, or import into the state, or cause to be distributed, transported, or imported into the state, keep for sale, offer or expose for sale, or give or lend” any of the weapons covered by the law. If, for example, you lend one of these guns to a friend or relative for an hour or two or “cause” someone else to do so, you might be liable. And, as with the Texas law, the liability here starts at $10,000 but could easily grow. This is meant to deter people from taking the risk of being sued in order to try to vindicate their rights in court. Even a small chance of defeat might carry a hefty expected price tag.
The California law is a direct result of the Supreme Court’s murky December 2021 ruling blocking some possible pathways to challenge the Texas law, but potentially leaving others open against state officials that might play some role in enforcing it. As I and others have long predicted, if the Texas SB 8 ploy is not definitively repudiated by the Court, it could serve as a model for states seeking to undermine a wide range of constitutional rights, including those valued by conservatives, as well as liberals. California has now done exactly that.
To it credit, the ACLU – which is generally sympathetic to gun control, opposes SB 1327 because of the danger of extending the SB 8 model:
The American Civil Liberties Union California Action opposed the measure precisely because it is modeled after Texas’ abortion law, warning that it “would
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