Newsom trolls SCOTUS: I dare you to strike down my gun law after upholding Texas' abortion bill

Santiago Mejia/San Francisco Chronicle via AP, Pool, File

A supremely silly exercise from a supremely silly presidential wannabe, and not just because it aims at getting a hearing from the Supreme Court. Gavin Newsom wanted to craft a gun-control bill similar to Texas’ SB8 that granted standing for any citizen to sue an abortion provider for violating a then-imposed civil prohibition on abortions.

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Now comes Newsom, a day late after Dobbs all but mooted Texas’ SB8 anyway, with a law that purports to allow citizens to sue each other for exercising an explicitly enumerated right. Anyone want to guess how many ways this will fail long before it gets to the Supreme Court — if in fact it ever does?

California has issued the U.S. Supreme Court a direct challenge at the confluence of gun and abortion rights as Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a firearms bill embracing the doctrine of private enforcement.

The new law allows Californians to sue manufacturers and citizens who distribute banned assault weapons or ghost guns. Newsom explicitly modeled the concept on a Texas law, preserved by the high court, that allows people to pursue legal claims against abortion providers.

By calling for and then signing the bill, Newsom has set up a legal test while illuminating the gulf between liberal California and a conservative Supreme Court on politically charged issues.

The governor has maintained the measure is about protecting Californians from gun violence. But it also sends a message to a Supreme Court whose rulings Newsom and fellow California Democrats have derided, essentially daring it to either uphold the gun law or reconsider its logic in backing Texas’s approach.

First off, the Supreme Court did not “back” Texas’ approach or act to uphold its law. They haven’t even seen the case on the merits yet. The Supreme Court refused to enjoin the law from taking effect in part because of the convoluted nature of SB8, which essentially deputized Texans as the state’s representatives in civil actions. The federal lawsuit against SB8 hasn’t even finished at the district court level, let alone moved into the appellate circuit on the merits. And separate actions in state court stalled the law anyway.

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Second, the Dobbs decision has mooted SB8, which was always likely to get tossed out on its novelty over standing. The state no longer needs to look for civil harassment to enforce abortion bans; Texas can directly enforce the law through its criminal prosecution power now that Roe has been thrown out. Even if the state doesn’t vacate SB8, it won’t get used because abortionists won’t operate in the state, at least under the criminal statutes as they now stand in Texas.

But of course, this is even sillier than that. The court struck down Dobbs on the clear and plain argument that the Constitution does not discuss abortion at all, and that no history of broadly accepted legal abortion existed in American history prior to Roe. The Constitution, however, very explicitly mentions the right to keep and bear arms, and the Supreme Court made it clear in a series of decisions concluding with Bruen last month that it considers this a private and fully incorporated right. Neither states nor private citizens have the right to encroach on it, absent rational and objectively applied regulations that do not unduly infringe on it. Just creating the statute alone violates the Constitution, let alone having Newsom allow people to use it to sue law-abiding gun owners.

Even the ACLU, which has been no friend to gun owners in defense of these civil rights, was unamused by Newsom’s stunt:

It also drew fierce opposition from ideological allies of Newsom who warned he was empowering the very type of reasoning he had condemned. “There is no way to ‘take advantage of the flawed logic’ of the Texas law,” ACLU California Action said in a statement, warning of “a radical and dangerous assault on our constitutional structure” that could “escalate an ‘arms race’ of new weapons to curtail the adjudication of rights by setting up bounty-hunting schemes on politically sensitive issues.”

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This is still only the second-dumbest political stunt from Newsom. He’s taking out ads in Texas newspapers telling the rubes how bad we have it here under Greg Abbott’s leadership, another trolling effort that copies his attacks on Ron DeSantis in Florida:

California Gov. Gavin Newsom has taken out Texas newspaper ads assailing Republican Gov. Greg Abbott in a move certain to spur more chatter about Newsom’s potential presidential ambitions.

Newsom went after Abbott on his home turf weeks after doing the same with Florida television spots excoriating Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis. The moves intensified Newsom’s longstanding tactic of using red-state foils to extol California’s progressive agenda and amplified talk about Democrats eyeing White House runs as the party frets about President Joe Biden’s sinking poll numbers.

The full-page Texas newspaper advertisements — which ran in the El Paso Times, Houston Chronicle and Austin American-Statesman — edit a quote from Abbott about “the right to life” being lost to “abortions,” inserting the word “gun violence” instead — a direct rebuke to Abbott’s record on two highly charged issues.

Er … how many people are leaving Texas to live in California? Or leaving Florida to embrace the high-tax, high-regulation environment in Newsom’s progressive paradise? Last I saw, Texas and Florida gained House seats while California lost them in the last census, which tells us how the feet-voting has been going between Newsom and these red states. Maybe he should buy a few ads in California newspapers begging residents not to leave instead.

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David Strom 5:30 PM | June 18, 2024
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