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The Guardian - US

California to let citizens enforce ban on assault weapons, echoing Texas abortion law

An AR-15-style rifle is displayed for sale at a gun show on 5 June 2021 in Costa Mesa, California.
An AR-15-style rifle is displayed for sale at a gun show on 5 June 2021 in Costa Mesa, California. Photograph: Patrick T Fallon/AFP/Getty Images

California governor Gavin Newsom has pledged to empower private citizens to enforce a ban on the manufacture and sale of assault weapons in the state, citing the same authority claimed by conservative lawmakers in Texas to outlaw most abortions there after only around six weeks of pregnancy.

“We will work to 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,” the governor’s office said in a statement on Sunday.

For three decades, California has banned the manufacture and sale of various assault-style weapons. However, in June, a federal judge overturned that ban, much to the ire of Democrats and gun-control activists, saying: “Like the Swiss army knife, the popular AR-15 rifle is a perfect combination for home defense weapon and homeland defense equipment. Good for both home and battle.”

California’s ban remained in place while the state appealed.

Newsom’s move draws inspiration from a controversial Texas law that allows private citizens to enforce the ban on abortions after the earliest fetal cardiac activity is detected, thus empowering them to sue abortion clinics and anyone else who “aids and abets” with the procedure.

Last Friday, the US supreme court ruled that Texas abortion providers can sue over the state’s ban on most abortions, but allowed the law, the strictest such regulation in the US to date, to remain in effect, causing outrage within the court’s liberal-leaning minority and among pro-choice advocates.

Newsom condemned the ruling, saying: “I am outraged by yesterday’s US Supreme Court decision allowing Texas’s ban on most abortion services to remain in place … But if states can now shield their laws from review by the federal courts that compare assault weapons to Swiss Army knives, then California will use the authority to protect people’s lives, where Texas used it to put women in harm’s way.”

The governor added that he has directed his staff to work with California’s legislature and its Democratic attorney general to pass a law that would let private citizens sue to enforce California’s ban on assault weapons.

Newsom said people who sue could win up to $10,000 per violation plus other costs and attorney fees.

Newsom’s declaration is a fulfilled prophecy for some gun rights groups who had predicted progressive states would attempt to use Texas’s abortion laws to restrict access to guns.