California Turns Texas’s Vigilante Tactics on Gunmakers

Since Texas Republicans succeeded (at least temporarily) in enacting a strict abortion ban enforced by incentivizing citizens to sue each other rather than law-enforcement officials, nearly three dozen copycat laws have been introduced across the country, according to the Washington Post. It’s not just Republicans proposing vigilante legislation, though many of the Democrats behind these bills say they’re still philosophically opposed to the tactic. California Democrats, led by Governor Gavin Newsom, are a prime example. Last week, they announced legislation modeled on the Texas abortion law that will similarly give bonuses to private citizens who sue gun manufacturers allegedly violating the state’s strong firearms laws. But it seems that the effort is a gesture rather than a sincere attempt to adopt Texas’s vigilante model.

According to the bill’s principal author, state senator Bob Hertzberg, it will “apply to those who manufacture, distribute, transport, import into California, or sell assault weapons, .50 BMG rifles, ghost guns [weapons assembled at home with no serial numbers] or ghost gun kits” and “would let people seek a court order to stop the spread of these weapons and recover up to $10,000 in damages for each weapon, plus attorney’s fees.”

All but chortling, Newsom said the law, if enacted, may convince the U.S. Supreme Court “to reconsider the absurdity of their previous decision” in allowing the Texas law to take effect.

It’s doubtful that gunmakers will be significantly intimidated by this legislation, which is unlikely to survive the judicial review that has gutted most recent gun-control measures in the Golden State on Second Amendment grounds. But gun-rights advocates, who thrive on paranoia, are professing worry, according to AP:

“If Texas succeeds in its gambit here, New York, California, New Jersey, and others will not be far behind in adopting equally aggressive gambits to not merely chill but to freeze the right to keep and bear arms,” attorney Erik Jaffe wrote in a legal brief on behalf of the Firearms Policy Coalition, a nonprofit group that advocates for gun rights.

The group also claimed that such restrictions are “really just modern-day Jim Crow laws designed to suppress the exercise of human rights the tyrants who run California don’t like.” Obviously, it doesn’t entirely follow that threatening to enforce gun laws is like denying Black people the right to vote or access to public facilities and private business services.

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