Well, we can’t say we weren’t warned.
In keeping a promise he made last year, California Gov. Gavin Newsom just signed a bill modeled on the Texas heartbeat law. Their unique features? Both laws seek to evade pre-enforcement judicial review by eliminating the power of state officials to enforce the law.
Both the California and Texas laws can only be enforced by “private civil actions” seeking damages, and not by the public officials normally tasked with enforcing state and federal law.
While the Texas law is designed to prevent abortions, the California law instead takes aim at gun ownership.
California’s law allows people to sue anyone who distributes so-called assault weapons (particular models of pistols, shotguns, and rifles defined in section 22949.61 (b) of the law), parts that can be used to build weapons, guns without serial numbers, or .50-caliber rifles. The law declares it is illegal to “purchase, sell, offer to sell, or transfer ownership of any firearm precursor part in this state that is not a federally regulated firearm precursor part.”
Under this new law, private citizens in the state of California can file lawsuits against those who violate the act and recover up to $10,000 per violation.
Here’s how it normally works.
Ordinarily, parties who are potentially adversely affected by a new law and believe that it is unconstitutional will file a lawsuit, seeking to enjoin officials from enforcing the law—thereby preventing it from taking effect—while its constitutionality is litigated.
That’s what happened in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization—before the Supreme Court ultimately reached its decision overturning Roe v. Wade and upholding the constitutionality of Mississippi’s law.
But prior to Dobbs, in Whole Woman’s Health v. Jacksona case involving the Texas heartbeat law, abortion providers filed a pre-enforcement challenge to prevent state courts