Despite California’s nation-leading efforts to restrict weapons, the state has failed to discourage individuals willing to break the law using stolen or constructed “ghost” guns.
In two recent instances, authorities say the initial weapon found after shooters killed six people and injured 12 in downtown Sacramento early Sunday was stolen.
A man used an unregulated assault weapon a month earlier and a few miles distant to murder his three kids, their chaperone, and then himself.
“Some say that we have the nation’s strictest gun regulations. However, they are certainly insufficiently tough, “State Senator Robert Hertzberg, a Democrat, stated Monday.
The latest mass shooting in a nightclub district just from the state Capitol has re-ignited President Joe Biden’s push for stronger gun legislation.
Biden urged Congress to replicate several of the measures already in place in California — requiring background checks, prohibiting assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, and eliminating ghost guns.
The most populous state will consider an innovative new approach Tuesday, when Hertzberg, at the urging of Gov. Gavin Newsom, expects to take the first step toward advancing a bill that would allow private citizens to sue anyone who distributes illegal assault weapons, parts for the construction of weapons, guns without serial numbers, or.50 caliber rifles.
The penalty: at least $10,000 in civil damages, plus lawyers’ expenses, for each firearm.
However, the bill would not prohibit anybody from carrying or using weapons, although they are prohibited under existing laws. And it would exclude stolen weapons unless they are made unlawful in some other way, such as by filing off the serial number.
“It should have a chilling effect on those who possess ghost guns or assault weapons,” Hertzberg said. “Millions of eyes must be on the lookout for this weaponry.
If someone flashes one and talks about it, there is now a motivation among the public in a way that has never been before to attempt to apprehend them.”
On the other hand, Hertzberg’s bill is modeled after a similar Texas statute that empowers individuals to pursue those who offer or aid in delivering abortions.
And even if Hertzberg’s bill becomes law, it will automatically be declared unlawful if the Texas statute is ultimately unconstitutional.
“This is political gamesmanship at its worst,” said Chuck Michel, president of the California Rifle and Pistol Association and an attorney who authored a book about California’s intricate gun laws.
“You’re going to choose a group of amateurs — non-lawyers, non-cops — to adjudicate a neighbor’s activities and then grant them the authority to take them into court.”
The Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, which is normally in support of gun control, has not taken a stance on the measure.
Attorney Ari Freilich, the center’s state policy director, stated that it “would effectively increase enforcement oversight of some particular criminal offenses in California.”
“This has never been attempted before,” Freilich explained. He would not speculate on its effectiveness but acknowledged that the concept had some “possible problems.”
Among these is the encouragement of civil lawsuits to punish crimes and the establishment of a “bounty” to be collected by individuals who have not suffered direct harm.
His group also supports several proposals, including making it easier for anyone to sue gun manufacturers for culpability in shootings that result in injury or death.
Two further measures target firearm parts, firearms without serial numbers and firearms manufactured using 3D printers.
Legislative experts cited further issues, including the possibility that California’s plan might endorse Texas’s approach.
As with the Texas law, the analysts noted that Hertzberg’s proposal is phrased broadly enough to include, for example, “a cab driver who transports a passenger to a gun shop,” though Hertzberg has stated that this is not the goal.
While the components used to create guns are not prohibited in and of themselves, California legislation taking effect July 1 will require them to be sold exclusively via registered firearms dealers.
Sen. Tom Umberg, head of the Senate Judiciary Committee and a Democrat like Hertzberg and Newsom, said he expected Hertzberg’s bill to pass his committee “so that the dialogue about the ridiculousness of the Texas legislation may continue.”
Umberg stated that he supports Hertzberg’s purpose but acknowledges that “the enforcement mechanism is vulnerable to dispute.”
The bill would need to pass two other committees before being brought to a full Senate vote. Additionally, it would have to pass the Assembly before being sent to Newsom.
Hertzberg believes his law might also aid in the prosecution of violent domestic abusers such as David Mora. Mora allegedly killed his children at a Sacramento church on Feb. 28 with a handmade semiautomatic rifle-style weapon and an illegal 30-round ammo magazine, despite a restraining order prohibiting him from possessing guns.
“I believe this will have a sharper bite than a court order,” Hertzberg added. “This is deposited into someone’s bank account. If you win this lawsuit, you have the right to take their bank account. Their world is transformed.”