What to Know About California’s Head-Turning Gun Control Law

By one measure, Californians are about 25% less likely to die in mass shootings compared with residents of other states. The state’s low rate of gun deaths is at least in part because of strict firearm laws, experts say.

But after a number of devastating shootings across the US this year, California is now tightening those gun rules even more.

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This month alone, Gov. Gavin Newsom has signed into law more than 10 new firearm restrictions. These include fresh limits on gun advertising to minors; increased inspections of dealers; and a 10-year ban on firearm possession for those convicted of child abuse or elder abuse.

The most high-profile of these laws allows Californians to sue anyone who distributes banned semi-automatic rifles or ghost guns. The legislation, which Newsom signed Friday, is modeled after a Texas law that allows private citizens to sue anyone who aids and abets in an abortion.

“If they are going to use this framework to put women’s lives at risk, we are going to use it to save people’s lives here in the state of California. That’s the spirit, the principle, behind this law,” Newsom said during a news conference Friday.

The governor’s decision to co-opt Texas’ legal strategy and take out ads attacking Republican governors in Florida and Texas has been turning heads in national political circles.

I’m going to walk you through what you need to know about California’s latest (and most controversial) gun bill, the capstone of the sweeping firearm legislation that Newsom has approved in recent weeks.

What exactly does the new law do?

Senate Bill 1327 allows Californians to sue anyone who distributes illegal semi-automatic rifles, parts that can be used to build weapons, guns without serial numbers or .50-caliber rifles. The law also allows people to pursue legal challenges against licensed firearms dealers who sell weapons to anyone under 21.

Under the law, awards of at least $10,000 per weapon and legal fees will be awarded to plaintiffs who successfully sue.

The law is set to take effect in January. But it includes a legal trigger that would automatically invalidate it if the courts strike down the Texas law.

Where did the idea come from?

In December, Newsom called for legislation that would allow private citizens to enforce the state’s gun laws.

He was responding to the US Supreme Court’s declining to block a Texas law that gives people the power to sue anyone involved in someone receiving an abortion, from the doctor who performs the procedure to the Uber driver who dropped the patient off at the clinic. Under that law, plaintiffs are entitled to $10,000 and their legal fees recovered if they win.

Newsom tapped state Mon. Bob Hertzberg, a San Fernando Valley Democrat, to shepherd the California bill through the Legislature. It was introduced in February.

Who opposes it?

An unusual mix of gun rights groups and the American Civil Liberties Union have spoken out against SB 1327.

In a letter opposing California’s legislation, the ACLU warned that Newsom was empowering a legal framework that he is trying to condemn.

“We admire and share the governor’s commitment to reproductive freedom, and we do not take issue with his legitimate concerns about the deadly proliferation of illegal guns. But there is no way to ‘take advantage of the flawed logic’ of the Texas law,” the letter reads.

The law is expected to face legal challenges that could eventually land at the Supreme Court.

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