“If states can now shield their laws from review by the federal courts ... then California will use that authority to protect people’s lives.”
California Gov. Gavin Newsom
Scott Olson/Getty Images News/Getty Images
Gavin Newsom wants to use Texas’s abortion ban tactics, but for gun control
Now that the Supreme Court has largely validated Texas’s abhorrent ban on reproductive health care, California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) is looking to the Lone Star State for inspiration: not to attack abortion access in his state, but to emulate the legislative model set forth by Texas to instead target gun manufacturers and distributors.
In a terse statement released over the weekend in the wake of the high court’s ruling, Newsom announced he had begun crafting a legal framework that would, like Texas’s anti-choice law deputizing anyone to sue health care providers that offer abortions, “create the ability for private citizens to sue anyone who manufactures, distributes, or sells an assault weapon or ghost gun kit or parts” in California.
“If states can now shield their laws from review by the federal courts that compare assault weapons to Swiss Army knives,” Newsom explained, “then California will use that authority to protect people’s lives, where Texas used it to put women in harm’s way.”
Newsom’s sentiment is a righteous and understandable one, and is largely in keeping with the broader trend of suing firearm makers as a relatively unexplored avenue toward gun control. But his plan — nebulous as may currently be — also suffers from several glaring and potentially fatal flaws. First and foremost, it is broadly an affirmation of the logic behind the high court’s decision on Texas’s reproductive health care ban, and as such only strengthens the conservative arguments that will (and already have) caused very real harm to people seeking abortions in Texas. What’s more, the Supreme Court’s decision also conspicuously allows for lawsuits against the de facto vigilantism inherent in Texas’s ban to proceed. So, not only would Newsom’s proposed legislation be a blanket validation of Texas’s law, but it could still find itself in legal jeopardy pending future lawsuits.
“If the Supreme Court is going to uphold vigilantes and uphold people putting women’s lives at risks, we will use and exercise our rights to advance a similar law here in California to protect people’s rights against guns and gun violence,” Newsom insisted to ABC7 San Francisco on Sunday evening.
What Newsom seems to be taking for granted here is the belief that this Supreme Court, comprised of a majority of very conservative justices who have shown themselves willing to craft rulings to conform to their own personal politics, would have the intellectual honesty and consistency to rule approvingly on his anti-gun measure simply because they’d done so on Texas’s abortion ban. That’s a profoundly naive sentiment that seems to willfully ignore just how fundamentally conservative — and politically adept — this current court is.
Or, perhaps it’s not naiveté at all. Perhaps it’s something even more frustrating: Newsom is a savvy politician with potential national aspirations who almost certainly knows all of the above points. Given that, it seems eminently possible that he’s pushing this proposed legislation knowing it’s likely doomed to fail — after he gets his headlines, that is.