It was late last year Texas Republicans broke new legal ground with a different kind of abortion ban. As we’ve discussed, the Lone Star State has effectively deputized random citizens, empowering them to go after those who have abortions after six weeks of pregnancy for $10,000, plus attorneys’ fees. The result was, and is, a system that turned anti-abortion activists into bounty hunters.
Republican-appointed justices on the U.S. Supreme Court gave Texas the green light to implement this policy six months before they overturned Roe v. Wade.
Soon after, this seemed to give Democrats in California an idea: Why not apply this same model to gun laws?
“If states can shield their laws from review by federal courts, then [California] will use that authority to help protect lives,” California Gov. Gavin Newsom said in December, adding, “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.”
We now know this wasn’t just bluster. As The Los Angeles Times reported, the Democratic governor signed into law on Friday a new state measure modeled after Texas’ vigilante-style abortion ban.
The new gun law, set to go into effect in January, will allow private people to sue anyone who imports, distributes, manufactures or sells illegal firearms in California, such as assault weapons, .50 BMG rifles and so-called ghost guns. The law requires a court to order $10,000 in damages for each weapon used in an alleged violation, along with attorneys fees. The bill was written so that if Texas’ law is nulled, California’s would similarly be invalidated.
Evidently, he was onto something.
What’s more, there’s clearly a political and electoral dimension to this policy dispute. NBC News reported:
California Gov. Gavin Newsom is running full-page ads in Texas newspapers Friday trolling Republican Gov. Greg Abbott to highlight a new California gun law modeled on the Lone Star State’s restrictive abortion law. The ads, first shared with NBC News, will run in the Austin American-Statesman, Houston Chronicle and El Paso Times. They modify an Abbott quote about the state’s abortion ban and promote “California’s answer to Texas’ perverse bill.”
“If Texas can ban abortion and endanger lives, California can ban deadly weapons of war and save lives. If Governor Abbott truly wants to protect the right to life, we urge him to follow California’s lead,” the ad reads.
One might get the impression that the California governor isn’t just advancing progressive policy goals, he also seems to be raising his national profile.
Steve Benen is a producer for “The Rachel Maddow Show,” the editor of MaddowBlog and an MSNBC political contributor. He’s also the bestselling author of “The Impostors: How Republicans Quit Governing and Seized American Politics.”