Hot on the heels of Texas shooting, California Senate passes Texas-style bill targeting assault weapons and phantom guns

Shortly after the country’s latest mass shooting, which killed 14 children and a teacher at a Texas elementary school, the California Senate on Tuesday passed a bill allowing private citizens to sue for at minus $10,000 — a bounty hunter provision inspired by a Texas abortion law — against makers or sellers of untraceable “ghost guns” or illegal assault weapons.

“We have some of the toughest gun laws in the country,” Sen. Anthony Portantino, D-La Cañada Flintridge (Los Angeles County), told colleagues amid news of the elementary school massacre. in Uvalde, Texas. But public enforcement of those laws hasn’t been enough to protect Californians from the “new wave of weapons,” he said, and private lawsuits would create “an incentive to take these dangerous weapons off the streets.” street”.

Texas Governor Greg Abbott said the 18-year-old shooter, who was carrying a handgun and possibly a rifle, was also killed.

California Governor Gavin Newsom was quick to raise the issue of gun control. “Another shooting. And the GOP won’t do anything about it,” Newsom tweeted a few hours after the shooting. We need nationwide, comprehensive, common sense gun safety NOW.

SB1327, co-authored by Portantino and Sen. Robert Hertzberg, D-Van Nuys (Los Angeles County), is the brainchild of Newsom, who proposed it in December after the Supreme Court allowed Texas to apply its abortion law. This law allows Texans to sue anyone who performs or facilitates an abortion in the state for $10,000, plus attorney’s fees, if the abortion took place after heart activity began, approximately six weeks after the start of pregnancy.

“If this is precedent, we will let Californians prosecute those who put ghost guns and assault weapons on our streets,” Newsom said on Twitter after the court issued its ruling.

The Senate approved the bill on a 24-10 vote and sent it to the Assembly.

The California definition of illegal assault weapons includes AR-15 type semi-automatic rifles and pistols with detachable magazines and specific features, such as forward pistol grips. Semi-automatic firearms do not require reloading after each trigger pull.

Ghost guns are sold in parts, without serial numbers or background checks, and assembled by the user. They have been increasingly used in deadly shootings – San Francisco police say ghost gun parts were found at nearly half of homicide scenes in the city in 2020 – and have been proven difficult for officers to detect and confiscate, an obstacle that could hamper private enforcement as well.

The Biden administration issued regulations requiring background checks and gun serial numbers, and AB1621 by Assemblyman Mike Gipson, D-Los Angeles, now awaiting a vote from the Assembly, would prohibit the manufacture, possession or sale in California of any firearm that does not meet federal standards.

An opponent of SB1327, Sen. Andreas Borgeas, R-Fresno, said Tuesday he would support requiring serial numbers on all firearms but opposed private enforcement.

Paying private citizens and their attorneys to enforce the law would be “a tacit admission that we’ve gutted law enforcement in such a way that they can’t do what needs to be done,” Borgeas said.

The Senate also approved SB1384 by Sen. Dave Min, D-Irvine (Orange County), which would require California gun dealers to install audio and video surveillance systems in their stores, carry insurance accountability and undergo annual state training on how to recognize and prevent “sham purchases” of firearms for those who are not entitled to own them. The bill was sent to the Assembly on a vote of 27 to 9.

Bob Egelko is a writer for the San Francisco Chronicle. Email: [email protected]: @BobEgelko

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