California enacts law allowing citizens to sue gun manufacturers | International


Gavin Newsom, Governor of California, celebrates the new law among local politicians and victims of gun violence.Jae C. Hong (AP)

California goes on the offensive against guns. Governor Gavin Newsom has enacted a controversial rule this Friday that will fuel the battle between Democrats and Republicans on one of the issues that most divides the United States. Law SB1327 will allow, from January 2023, any citizen to sue someone who imports, distributes, manufactures or sells weapons illegally in the most populous state in the nation. The legislation copies the model of the controversial norm approved in Texas and endorsed by the Supreme Court, which allows civil proceedings to be initiated against anyone who helps a woman to have an abortion. “If they use the law to put women’s lives at risk, we will do it to keep them safe. That is the spirit behind this law,” the president, one of the Democrats who have taken action in the face of conservative victories in recent weeks, said this Friday.

“If you look at what’s happening across the country, we’re not winning. We are not progressing. I’m sick and tired of being on the defensive, it’s time to put them on the defense,” Newsom added at an event in Santa Monica. There he was supported by the local senators who presented the law in December, the state attorney general, Rob Bonta, and victims of armed violence. One of the attendees was Mia Tretta, a student who survived a shooting at Saugus High School in Santa Clarita (north of Los Angeles), which left three dead and three injured in November 2019. “This law can save lives attacking the illegal ghost gun industry [rifles de asalto que se venden por partes para que sean ensamblados en casa]. She could have saved my best friend’s life,” Tretta said during the ceremony.

The rule motivates legal actions against the manufacturers and sellers of assault rifles, a type of highly regulated weapon in the State, which is the favorite model of the perpetrators of mass shootings. Another industry that is intended to attack is that of ghost weapons. The Government of Joe Biden set these types of disarmable rifles, very difficult for federal and local authorities to trace, among its objectives. The division that produces the issue in Washington has made regulatory efforts a dead letter. The large arms manufacturers also enjoy a federal legal shield that prevents them from responding for the damage caused by their products.

The California rule requires defendants, if they lose, to pay victims $10,000 in compensation. The legal structure of this seeks to take advantage of the “logic flaws” of SB 8, the Texas law that has generated a controversial system of rewards to initiate civil litigation. Legal experts, however, have criticized the effort by Newsom and the Democrats. “It’s a big misstep to entrench oneself in those flaws of logic,” Shirpi Agarwal, the legal director of the progressive Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), considered in May, who reasons that the interpretation of the Constitution should not vary depending on where Americans live.

“California promotes a legal pathway that allows any state to deny people constitutional rights that are protected by the courts… The erosion of court protection of these rights means that states will be able to pick and choose any political issue that interests them and adapt it to the mechanism of SB 8… This will inevitably increase our dangerous polarization”, concludes specialist Agarwal.

Pro-gun groups have already announced that they will take the new rule to court because they believe it violates the second constitutional amendment, which tolerates gun ownership. Other legal experts believe that it is possible that the Supreme Court judges will declare the California law unconstitutional despite having allowed the Texas law against abortion to be in force.

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With the constitutionality of the rule in the air, Newsom has left no room for doubt that this has been a coup. This Friday, the same day he signed the document, his government published new ads in Texas newspapers, criticizing the anti-abortion rule and the president, Republican Greg Abbott. Posts appeared in Austin American Statesmanthe houston chronicle Y El Paso Times, and its cost amounted to 30,000 dollars. The offensive follows his strategy shown in Florida, where weeks ago he paid for advertising that criticized other major conservative politicians, Ron DeSantis, the governor who is studying to run for president in 2024.

Although Newsom makes politics with the issue, the regulation of weapons is one of his priorities. His Administration has pushed a dozen regulations this year that try to reduce the impact of armed violence in the lives of Californians. This month, the local Congress approved a code of conduct for the arms industry. If violated, it makes them subject to lawsuits in local courts, a move intended to bypass the federal shield. With several laws passed in recent months, California has also banned gun advertising to minors, made it harder to buy ghost rifles, removed ex-convicts charged with domestic violence from buying a handgun for 10 years, and another school authorities to investigate credible threats of shootings.

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