California senators approve bill that would allow lawsuits over illegal guns

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Hours after a deadly shooting at a Texas, California, elementary school, senators on Tuesday approved giving people the power to sue those who deal in illegal firearms, mimicking a Texas law designed to prevent abortions .

Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom hoaxed the bill to the US Supreme Court after judges tentatively approved a Texas law that allows people to prosecute those who perform or assist in having abortions. The California bill would automatically be void if the Texas law is eventually declared unconstitutional.

Democratic Senator Anthony Portantino pointed to the Texas shooting that killed at least 18 children. He said California should forever use Texas’ abortion law as a model. “Let’s use this plan for something that protects us, not something that punishes women,” he said.

The California version would allow people to file civil lawsuits against anyone who sells illegal assault weapons, parts that can be used to build weapons, unserialized guns, or .50 caliber rifles. They would be awarded at least $10,000 in civil damages for each weapon, plus attorneys’ fees.

The move follows recent mass shootings, including at the school in Texas, a grocery store in Buffalo, New York, and elsewhere, including a so-called gang shooting that killed six people and injured 12 people within blocks of the California Capitol last month.

Aside from the political statement, supporters said the measure addresses a previously unsolvable problem of deterring the use of homemade or untraceable “ghost” weapons. The problem is growing fast, even though California already has some of the strictest firearms laws in the country.

“The rising gun violence in California is not an indictment of tough laws. It’s a wake-up call for passing even more prudent gun laws to (deter) these latest illegal guns,” Portantino said.

Gun owners’ organizations and even some gun control advocates have questioned the wisdom of creating a premia to encourage people to file civil lawsuits to punish crimes.

But only Republican Senator Andreas Borgeas opposed the law, saying lawmakers should empower law enforcement to crack down on those who illegally possess guns. He supported other measures, such as requiring guns to have serial numbers.
“However, I think the right to private prosecution goes way too far,” he said, because it would encourage lawsuits by plaintiffs’ attorneys.

The measure passed by a 24-10 vote, with Democratic Sen. Melissa Hurtado joining Republicans in opposition.

Senators approved three more gun control bills and sent them all to the state assembly over opposition from Republican lawmakers.

Schools would be required to send parents annual information on safe firearm storage and promptly report threats of mass violence. But Portantino removed the most controversial provision, which would have required parents to report gun ownership to school officials.

The second would ban gun displays on state property, with Democratic Senator Dave Min arguing the state should not support the sale of firearms.

The third, also by Min, would require dealers to install security measures to deter illegal arms sales and thefts, including digital video surveillance systems.

Copyright © 2022 by The Associated Press. All rights reserved. California senators approve bill that would allow lawsuits over illegal guns

Dais Johnston

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