The debate over California’s controversial new gun law, signed Friday by Gov. Gavin Newsom, seems to confuse two important questions: How can the law be challenged in court and, once challenged, is it constitutional?
the law, Senate Bill 1327, authored by Sen. Bob Hertzberg (D-Van Nuys), authorizes private citizens to file civil suits against gun makers and sellers in three circumstances. First, it focuses on “ghost guns,” firearms lacking serial numbers required by law, and allows a suit for $10,000 per weapon for anyone who manufactures, distributes, imports, transports or sells such weapons. Second, it is concerned with parts that can be used to build firearms, called “firearm precursor parts,” that are not allowed by the federal government and it creates civil liability for those who sell or purchase them. Third, it allows a suit for $10,000 each time a licensed firearms dealer sells or provides a firearm to any person under 21 years of age.
SB 1327 was explicitly modeled after a Texas statute, known as SB 8, which bans abortions at around six weeks of pregnancy and allows private citizens to sue anyone who aids and abets an abortion for $10,000 in damages. The goal of the Texas law is to limit the ability to challenge its constitutionality because it is not enforced by government officials, such as the state attorney general or district attorneys. In December, the Supreme Court in Whole Woman’s Health vs. Jacksonby 5-4, held that state officials can be sued in federal court over the constitutionality of a law only if they play a role in enforcing the law.
But that does not mean that such