Analysis News & Analysis

Governor Newsom Advances Controversial Gun Control Measures

Governor Gavin Newsom has pledged to sign more gun control measures, including pending legislation allowing victims of gun violence to sue individuals who circumvent firearm restrictions and gun manufacturers or retailers. 

The recent mass shootings in Buffalo, Irvine, and Uvalde have sparked a flurry of controversy as Democratic lawmakers and activists blast Republican gun policies as the cause of unnecessary deaths.

Among the bills Newsom has committed to signing are SB 1327, a policy modeled off a controversial Texas heartbeat bill that would empower citizens to sue and collect damages fro those who violate the state’s gun laws, AB 2571, which would restrict advertising of firearms that “reasonably appears to be attractive to minors”, and AB 1594, which would allow California and its citizens to sue gun manufacturers when their products are used in incidents of gun violence.

“We’re going to control the controllables, the things we have control of,” Newsom said in a statement with legislators at the State Capitol.

It is not clear that such measures would deter mass shootings in any meaningful way. Of the three recent tragedies, two of them took place in California and New York, states acknowledged by both supporters and detractors of gun control as having the harshest gun control policies in the nation. While the nebulous category of assault weapons get most of the political attention, the majority of mass shootings and firearm related homicides in general are perpetrated with handguns; the kinds of rifles being targeted kill fewer people each year than knives.

Furthermore, several restrictive gun laws have been struck down in recent years  — and the tendency of the judiciary has been to expand gun rights, not restrict them. Just this month, a California law restricting the sale of semi-automatic weapons to citizens under 21 was struck down on the grounds that it was an arbitrary violation of the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment.

Other constitutional concerns have been raised: red flag laws, another popular remedy to mass shootings, raise serious concerns of abuse and the potential power to strip citizens of a constitutionally protected right without due process and the clear “right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed” clause of the 2nd Amendment continue to frustrate many legislative ambitions.

But the move may well be a political statement more than an expected policy outcome — a rallying cry in what is shaping up to be an especially contentious midterm election cycle.

California leads this national conversation,” Newsom said Wednesday while promoting his new gun control measures. “When California moves, other states move in the same direction.”