A bill that would allow California residents to file civil lawsuits against firearm manufacturers, distributors, importers, and sellers of illegal firearms passed the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday.
Senate Bill 1327, authored by Senator Robert Hertzberg (D-Van Nuys), specifically notes that those illegal firearms include firearms lacking a serial number when required by law, assault weapons, .50 BMG rifles, or firearm precursor parts such as those used to construct ghost guns.
As SB 1327 is modeled on the Texas “Heartbeat” abortion law that was passed last year allowing Texas citizens to sue abortion providers if they perform an abortion after a heartbeat is detected, usually around six weeks. With the ability to sue in place, individuals can enforce the bill rather than rely state enforcement with penalties and fines. Once sued, abortion providers and performers in Texas face a state minimum of $10,000 per abortion, plus attorney’s fees.
SB 1327 would follow the same pattern, automatically putting in a state minimum of $10,000 per weapon, plus attorney’s fees. The bill is also tied directly to Texas’ law based on constitutionality. If the abortion law in Texas is struck down due to being unconstitutional, California’s firearm bill would be as well and would be repealed the next year on January 1st. Finally, the bill notes, “all statutes regulating or prohibiting firearms shall not be construed to repeal any other statute regulating or prohibiting firearms, in whole or in part, unless the statute specifically states that it is repealing another statute,” essentially keeping all of California’s other firearm regulations and laws in place if the law goes down.
Senator Hertzberg, the bill’s author, also added that “I am proud to be working with Governor Newsom and his Administration to bring accountability to gun manufacturers and others who are flooding our streets with dangerous and deadly weapons. The alarm bells are blaring. We could not have a clearer call for action to stop gun violence than what happened on Sunday at the doorstep of our state’s democracy. The Legislature will act.”Opponents on Wednesday charged that those behind the bill were using an isolated incident to further their agenda and push forward a bill with questionable civil rights violations and constitutionality issues.
“This is not a ‘needing a law for all boats to have enough lifeboats after the Titanic sinking’ sort of situation,” said Raymond Ferrell, a gun distributor who advises many sellers on selling weapons in Western states such as California, to the Globe on Wednesday. “And it’s not like a Port Arthur situation like Australia where one mass shooting brought swift gun bills across an entire country. It was one incident, likely gang related, that just happened to be nearby the Capitol building at the same time major firearms related legislation was to be discussed a few days later.”
“I can’t blame them for using it to their advantage. Armed civilians who stop mass shootings are elevated similarly in other states. But they’re using it to advance a bill made out of spite to a bill on another subject passed in another state. A bill that would not have stopped this even if it was passed. It’s astounding that this is even happening here.”
Sen. Hertzberg’s response to critique of SB 1327 at the hearing: “We are trying to create the greatest chilling effect we can.”
SB 1327 is due to be heard in other Senate committees in the coming weeks.
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