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California Gov. Gavin Newsom endorsed a Democratic proposal to allow citizens to sue their neighbors and businesses to enforce Golden State gun control – modeled after a Texas heartbeat bill that has been praised on the right and reviled by the left.
The pro-life legislation in Texas allows citizens to enforce an abortion ban by suing providers and anyone else involved in helping a woman end her pregnancy after a fetal heartbeat is detected.
“It’s time to go on the offensive with new measures that empower individuals to hold irresponsible and negligent gun industry actors to account, crack down on shameful advertising that targets our kids and more,” the governor said during a news briefing. “This is not about attacking law-abiding gun owners – it’s about stopping the tragic violence ravaging communities across the country.”
Separately, he asserted that “Gun industry greed has fueled the gun violence epidemic.”
His office did not immediately respond to questions about the role of progressive policies including bail reform and Prop 47, which made a slew of felony crimes into misdemeanors, but instead sent a snippet from the governor’s news conference where he answered a question about whether “the early release of tens of thousands of inmates” played a role in the upswing in violent crime.
“Well, if there was substantive evidence to back that up – a lot of assertion in that,” he said. “It’s interesting, I was looking at the national statistics where homicide rates increased the fastest and the highest, in the country…four out of five are deep-red states.”
He singled out Montana and Texas – the latter of which he said saw a spike in property and violent crimes but did not carry out a progressive early prison release campaign.
“I’m open to argument interested in evidence,” he said. “And I would say that we need to back that up.”
Authorities in Los Angeles have said homicide rates were up 90% in the county last year compared to 2019, before the coronavirus pandemic, before the “defund police” movement picked up steam and before Democrat George Gascon, an architect of Prop 47, became district attorney.
And in Austin, Texas, Democratic Travis County District Attorney Jose Garza is feuding with city police amid a record-setting spike in homicides.
Second Amendment groups, conservative lawmakers and legal scholars have all pushed back against Newsom’s proposal, as politically motivated, unconstitutional and a distraction from real crime issues.
“The real problem is California has adopted policies that let criminals continue to commit crimes and get let right out,” James Gallagher, the state Assembly’s Republican leader, told Fox News Digital Friday. “Californians are tired of it, and he would love to distract them.”
The Golden State already has some of the strictest gun laws in the state, he said, and violent crime continues to surge.
“Crime has gotten worse under this governor, and that’s a fact,” Gallagher added. “The problem is criminals – there’s no accountability for crime in California, and that’s because of policies enacted by Gavin Newsom and the supermajority of Democrats.”
According to Newsom’s office, the bill, spearheaded by Democratic state Sen. Robert Hertzberg, “would allow private citizens to sue anyone who manufactures, distributes, transports, imports into the state or sells assault weapons, .50 BMG rifles, ghost guns, or ghost gun kits.”
A separate state Assembly bill would “specify that a gun industry member has created or maintained a public nuisance, as defined, if their failure to follow federal, state, or local law caused injury or death or if the gun industry member engaged in unfair business practices.”
“’Gun manufacturer greed’ doesn’t fuel gun crime any more than ‘motor vehicle company greed’ fuels DUI crashes and fatalities,” Betsy Brantner Smith, spokesperson for the National Police Association, told Fox News Digital Friday. “People who don’t feel safe aren’t free. And Americans are starting to realize that their freedoms are at stake because their freedom to shop in their neighborhood and walk their child to school safety and so many of those things are being hampered by out of control violent crime.”
Ghost guns, which are firearms privately made at home, appear in only a small fraction of violent crime, she said. And most people who start building them never actually complete their project, she said.
Still, she acknowledged, law enforcement officers in California have reported the most ghost gun seizures.
Los Angeles City Council banned the weapons late last year after the number seized soared to 1,780, up from around 800 in 2020, the Los Angeles Times reported in November.
Meanwhile, the City of Los Angeles saw 397 homicides in 2021, a 14-year high, police statistics show. A full-year breakdown for how many of those involved ghost guns was not immediately available.
Between January and October 2021, 24 of the city’s 330 homicides involved ghost guns, the LAPD told city lawmakers at the time, according to NBC Los Angeles.
“With hundreds of gun control laws already on the books, Gov. Newsom’s statements today are a continued assault upon the good gun owners in California. Dan Reid, the NRA’s western regional director, told Fox News Digital. “If the governor truly wished to address violent crime, he would support the brave men and women of law enforcement and ask all prosecutors to do their jobs and prosecute criminals to the fullest extent of the law.”
Jonathan Turley, one of the nation’s leading legal scholars and a law professor George Washington University, said the bill would be “dead on arrival” if written as the governor described it Friday.
“Before you allow citizen enforcement of prohibitions, you have to establish that the prohibitions themselves are constitutional,” he wrote in an essay dissecting the issue – noting that a recent California law barring AR-15s could be struck down, pending the results of an ongoing court battle.
He also noted that the Supreme Court in December ruled it would allow Texas abortion providers to challenge the state law before enforcement begins.
“The same would likely be true for the California law,” he added.
Texas Right to Life is a pro-life group that supported the new legislation in the Lone Star State and even hosted a website to assist whistleblowers take advantage of the law.
“Despite Gov. Gavin Newsom’s claim, the California bill is significantly different than the legal framework and enforcement mechanism of the life-saving Texas Heartbeat Act,” Kimberlyn Schwartz, the group’s director of media and communications, told Fox News Digital. “This legislation adds a private cause of action for manufacturing or selling ‘assault rifles,’ or breaking other gun control laws, all of which are already criminal offenses in California.”
She added that in both states, the best way to test the constitutionality of either law is in court.
To Gallagher, California’s Republican Assembly leader, Newsom’s move is an attempt to appease a disapproving public sick of rising crime.
“He knows that he’s in trouble, and he’s using this as a sideshow distraction to introduce another gun law, so hopefully people will not see and pay attention to his terrible record on their quality of life,” he said. “The governor needs to focus his efforts on things that will lower the cost of living for Californians, actually solve homelessness, instead of one-off gestures that aren’t going to do anything to stop gun violence.”
In his news conference, Newsom indicated that the bill could be aimed directly at the Supreme Court.
If the conservative-controlled court upholds the Texas law and not California’s, it would show “hypocrisy,” he argued.
“Or it’ll get them to reconsider the absurdity of their previous decision,” Newsom said, adding: “There is no principled way the U.S. Supreme Court cannot uphold this California law. None. Period full stop. It is quite literally modeled after the law they just upheld in Texas.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.