Kudos California Governor Gavin Newsom!— He’s For Private Lawsuits to Keep Guns off Our Streets December 14, 2021
Far too often, many Democratic politicians, when challenged politically for their stands, tend to retreat and hunker down. Democrats get far too fearful of the reaction by the right wing “noise machine” and its friends, even when public opinion stands solidly behind “Team Blue.” Fortunately, California Democratic Governor Gavin Newsom is not part of that scaredy cat camp. On September 14, 2021, three months ago, Newsom handily beat an attempt to recall him engineered by the GOP. This recall was mainly based on Gov. Newsom’s strong enforcement of mask wearing and shutting down businesses to prevent the spread of the deadly COVID-19 pandemic. With all the votes tallied, the recall attempt against Newsom failed by an overwhelming 23.8% margin. The final count was 61.9% to keep Newsom v. 38.1% to remove him (latimes.com, Myers & Willon, 10/22/21, nytimes.com, Hubler, 12/12/21). Because of his smashing the recall, Gov. Newsom is relatively secure in his attempt to win re-election in 2022 (See latimes.com, Willon, 12/13/21). Newsom refuses to go into hiding, as many GOPers had hoped he would do, after being attacked by the recall election. Gov. Newsom has recently undertaken a national book tour to promote a children’s book he has written about dyslexia, a lifelong challenge that he has faced. As tornadoes swept through Southeastern states, leaving a path of massive death and destruction, Gov. Newsom publicly offered assistance to these states, such as hardest hit KY. He offered to send them specialized CA urban search and rescue resources (latimes.com, Hennessy-Fiske & Jarvie, 12/12/21, nytimes.com, Hubler, 12/12/21).
Governor Newsom, despite the GOP’s hyper-hostility to him, is unafraid to tackle one of our most hot button political issues —gun control. And how is he doing it? Pro-choice Newsom has hit on a very clever way to take on this matter. On Friday, 12/10/2021, in the “Whole Woman’s Health Et Al. v. Austin Reeve Jackson, Judge, Et Al,” a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) let stand Texas’ ban on most abortions (594 U.S. –). That TX law, Senate Bill 8, amounts to a nearly complete ban on abortions in that state after a fetal heartbeat has been detected. A fetal heartbeat normally occurs around six weeks after conception, often before many women realize they are pregnant. Supporters of abortion rights and many legal analysts have criticized this draconian TX law. Right-wing legislators drafted TX’s abortion ban to evade review in federal courts where it might be blocked. In what many people have labeled the “bounty hunter” provision, this TX law deputizes ordinary private citizens, including those outside TX, to sue clinics and others who violate the ban. These “bounty hunters” are then awarded at least $10,000 per illegal abortion if they are successful. This law makes no exceptions for pregnancies resulting from rape or incest, and has been in effect since 9/01/2021 (Hubler, 12/12/21, nytimes.com). Abortion-rights activists called the law unconstitutional and sued state judges, their clerks, and the TX state attorney general, seeking a federal court ruling that would freeze the law and shield doctors and clinics. Five conservative Justices-- Thomas, Gorsuch, Kavanaugh, Alito, and Coney Barrett rejected most of the pro-choice advocates’ arguments. They stated that state judges and their staffs as well as the state attorney general can’t be sued. They only allowed four other state officials who license medical professionals to be sued. However, stopping those officials from enforcing this law would not bar the state anti-abortion law from being upheld. Normally conservative Chief Justice (CJ) Robert joined liberals Breyer, Sotomayor, and Kagan in dissent. CJ Roberts stated that TX sought to “nullify this court’s rulings” that women have a right to choose abortion. CJ Roberts added, “It is the role of the Supreme Court in our constitutional system that is at stake (latimes.com, Savage, 12/10/21).” Previously, Justices Kavanaugh and Coney Barrett seemed to indicate they would go along with CJ Roberts in taking a go-slow approach to the abortion controversy. Kavanaugh and Coney Barrett questioned the private “bounty hunter” provision of TX’s anti-abortion law. However, in 9/2021, Kavanaugh and Coney Barrett stood aside and allowed the TX law to take effect. And on 12/01/2021, in a Mississippi case, these two Justices seemed ready to join three other conservatives, Thomas, Gorsuch, and Alito to overturn the 1973 Roe v. Wade opinion allowing a right to abortion altogether (latimes.com, Savage). In the TX case decided on 12/10/2021, SCOTUS allowed abortion-rights advocates to go back to a federal judge in Austin, TX and urge him to block TX anti-abortion law on constitutional grounds. However, it is not clear that this Austin judge could hand down a broad order halting the state law. Should that trial court judge in Austin block TX Senate Bill 8, the very conservative 5th Circuit Ct. of Appeals in New Orleans, which has twice halted challenges to this TX law, could do that again (See latimes.com, Savage, 12/10/21).
In his dissent in the TX anti-abortion case, which upheld the private “bounty hunting” provision, CJ Roberts also argued that the use of private litigants to enforce TX’s abortion law could be used as “a model of action in other areas (594 U.S. –).” Translation: Liberal-leaning states might use the same tactics to limit rights dear to conservatives-- gun rights, another issue that SCOTUS recently heard (See nytimes.com, Hubler, 12/12/21). And guess what? Gov. Newsom is doing just that. Angered by SCOTUS’ upholding the “bounty hunter” clause, Gov. Newsom tweeted:
“ SCOTUS is letting private citizens in Texas sue to stop abortion?!
If that’s the precedent then we’ll let Californians sue those who put ghost guns and assault weapons on our streets.
If TX can ban abortion and endanger lives, CA can ban deadly weapons of war and save lives.
We will work to create the ability for private citizens to sue anyone who manufactures, distributes, or sells an assault weapon or ghost gun kit or parts in CA, 7:02 PM-Dec 11, 2021, (Office of the Governor of California @CAgovernor).”
Newsom also declared, “If states can now shield their laws from review by federal courts that compare assault weapons to Swiss Army knives, then CA will use that authority to protect people’s lives, where TX used it to put women in harm’s way (latimes.com, Dillon, 12/11/21).” Newsom was referring to a decision by anti-gun control U.S. District Ct. Judge Roger Benitez. In the summer of 2021, Benitez overturned CA’s long-standing ban on assault weapons (latimes.com, Nelson & Davis, 8/08/21). Newsom stated that the new CA anti-gun effort would function the same way that the TX anti-abortion law would. Gov. Newsom said he was directing his staff to work with the state Legislature (under Democratic control) and Dem. Atty. General Rob Bonta on a new law that would allow private citizens to sue manufacturers or distributors of assault weapons as well as ghost gun kits or parts. Newsom stated, “If the most efficient way to keep these devastating weapons off our streets is to add the threat of private lawsuits, we should do just that (latimes.com, Dillon, 12/11/21).” Under Newsom’s proposal, private citizens could sue to stop the manufacture, sale, or distribution of assault weapons or ghost gun kits or parts. Plaintiffs in successful cases (as in the TX anti-abortion law), could receive damages of at least $10,000 per violation plus court costs and attorney’s fees (latimes.com, Dillon, 12/11/21). UC Berkeley School of Law Professor Khiara M. Bridges said that Newsom’s threat to restrict assault weapons is the kind of legal gambit constitutional scholars have predicted could be used since SCOTUS declined to block the TX abortion law. Newsom’s push to bar assault legislation using private litigators follows CJ Roberts’ warning that private citizens could now enforce laws in other areas, using comparable methods (See latimes.com, Dillon). Meet CA Gov. Gavin Newsom.
San Francisco (SF) native Democrat Gavin Christopher Newsom (54) is nearly finishing his third year of his first term as Governor of CA. In 2021, CA has over 39 million people, the largest population of any state in the U.S. (worldpopulationreview.com.>states). Newsom was first elected Gov. in 2018, clobbering GOPer John Cox by a humungous 24 points, 62%-38% (Cohen & Cook, 2022 Political Almanac). Newsom graduated from Santa Clara University in 1989. He started a wine store on San Francisco’s Fillmore Street and expanded his holdings to include bars, restaurants, hotels, and wineries. San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown gave Newsom his start in politics by first naming him to that city’s Parking and Traffic Commission and later to a seat on the SF Board of Supervisors. He served on SF’s Board of Supervisors from 1997-2003. He successfully ran for SF Mayor in 2003 and served in that office from 2004-2010. As mayor, Newsom erased SF’s $483 million deficit without disastrous closures. In 2004, before the idea became mainstream and was later upheld by SCOTUS, Newsom ordered city clerks to approve same-sex marriages. Four-thousand couples took advantage of this new policy. However, before same-sex marriages became acceptable, Newsom was blamed by many “scared” Democrats for helping W Bush win re-election over Democrat John Kerry. Many “Team Blue” members shamelessly “ran away” from Newsom. Now, most Californians view Newsom’s stand on same-sex marriage as courageous and correct. Newsom easily won re-election as SF mayor. In 2010, he ran for Lt. Governor and was re-elected to that position in 2014. As was previously noted, in 2018, Newsom handily won his first term as Governor of CA (See Cohen & Cook 2022).
As CA’s Governor, Newsom was a progressive and strongly fought Demagogue Donald’s agenda (See Cohen & Cook 2022). Governor Newsom loves his job. He immediately went to work trying to tackle some of CA’s hardest problems. He used CA’s historic $14 billion surplus to fund programs to help individuals and businesses to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, build more affordable housing, house the state’s unsheltered, and prevent wildfires (latimes.com/opinion, 8/13/21). Gov. Newsom supports universal preschool, two years of free-community college tuition, and single-payer health insurance (Cohen & Cook 2022). Hispanics constitute CA’s biggest ethnic minority. According to the 2022 Cohen and Cook Almanac, Hispanics now are 39.40% of CA’s population. Asians constitute 17.10% of California’s residents, and Blacks 5.80%. These three racial and ethnic groups outnumber whites in CA (59.40%) by 2.90 % or nearly 3%. CA is already a majority-minority state. Newsom has been one of the most pro-Latino Governors in CA history. He prioritized high-risk Latino neighborhoods for COVID-19 vaccinations and expanded college loans for “Dreamers” seeking graduate degrees. Newsom made unprecedented investments in public education that helped working-class Latinos, including initiatives to lower the costs of textbooks and cover two years of community college. He backed COVID stimulus checks for undocumented Californians who have kept the state running as essential workers. He approved temporary housing for farmworkers who came down with COVID, as well as rent relief and tax cuts for small businesses. He secured health insurance for undocumented seniors (latimes.com, Guerrero, J., 8/25/21). Many of these farmworkers and small business owners in CA are Latinos. Disease, like COVID-19, remember, makes no distinctions between legal and illegal residents, or any racial and ethnic groups.
In the 9/14/2021 recall election, Gov. Newsom won every major group in CA-- whites, blacks, Latinos, and Asian Americans. Every age group, men and women, urban and suburban residents, parents and non-parents were in the “Don’t Recall Newsom” column. Sixty-four percent of female voters and 62% of white female voters voted to keep Newsom. In his 2020 rout of Trump in CA, Biden won just 51% of white women. Sixty percent of Latinos voted to keep Newsom and at least 25% of the voters in exit polls were Latinos, a strong CA showing. Only 41% of whites voted to recall Newsom (cnn.com, Mitchell, L., 9/17/21 & cnn.com, 9/14/21 broadcast). In the 11/2020 presidential election, 47% of CA whites supported Trump (cnn.com, Mitchell). In beating the recall, Gov. Newsom received the same margin of victory he had obtained in his first 2018 gubernatorial election (latimes.com, Willon, 12/13/21). After Newsom’s rout of his recall opponents, GOP candidates who may run against Newsom in 2022 have yet to get their campaigns up and running (See Willon, latimes.com, 12/13/21). Cal State Long Beach political scientist Matt Lesenyie stated that voters see Gov. Newsom as “a visible and known brand before and during the pandemic (Willon, latimes.com, 12/13/21).”
IMHO, Newsom’s popularity will not be hurt in CA by his stand to attack assault weapons using private citizens to go against gun manufacturers. CA state Assemblyman Marc Levine (D-Greenbrae) stated that CA should be doing everything it can to prevent gun violence. He applauded Gov. Newsom’s stance on this matter. Since 9/2021, when SCOTUS let the bounty hunter TX anti-abortion law first go into effect, Levine stated that constituents had approached him about CA trying to use private citizens to similarly go after guns. Levine, who has authored multiple bills on gun restrictions, argues that CA can also protect “human life” with a similar bill against guns (see latimes.com, Dillon, 12/11/21). Again, kudos, Gov. Newsom! Use the private lawsuit method to keep guns off our streets, a truly “pro-life” measure.