Editorial: Abortion and gun rights: A bad law is still a bad law – Kenosha News


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Regardless of what you think about abortion rights, Texas’ poorly crafted abortion law is about to unleash a slew of unintended constitutional consequences across the country.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom says he favors California using the Texas law as a model to ban semiautomatic weapons and “ghost gun kits” by letting citizens sue anyone who makes, sells or distributes them in his state.

This is one of the reasons we’ve said Senate Bill 8, also known as the fetal heartbeat law, is both unconstitutional and dangerous.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom on Saturday pledged to empower private citizens to enforce a ban on the manufacture and sale of assault weapons in the state, citing the same authority claimed by conservative lawmakers in Texas to outlaw most abortions once a heartbeat is detected.California has banned the manufacture and sale of many assault-style weapons for decades. A federal judge overturned that ban in June, ruling it was unconstitutional and drawing the ire of the state's Democratic leaders by comparing the popular AR-15 rifle to a Swiss Army knife as "good for both home and battle." California's ban remained in place while the state appealed.Meanwhile, Republican lawmakers in Texas this year passed a law banning abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detected, which normally occurs at about six weeks into pregnancy. The Texas law allows private citizens to enforce the ban, empowering them to sue abortion clinics and anyone else who "aids and abets" with the procedure.Friday, the U.S. Supreme Court allowed the Texas law to remain in effect while abortion clinics sue to block it. That decision incensed Newsom, a Democrat who supports abortion rights."If states can now shield their laws from review by the federal courts that compare assault weapons to Swiss Army knives, then California will use that authority to protect people's lives, where Texas used it to put women in harm's way," Newsom said in a statement released by his office at 7 p.m. on Saturday.Newsom said he has directed his staff to work with the state's Legislature and its Democratic attorney general to pass a law that would let private citizens sue to enforce California's ban on assault weapons. Newsom said people who sue could win up to $10,000 per violation plus other costs and attorneys fees against "anyone who manufactures, distributes, or sells an assault weapon" in California."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," Newsom said.The legal fight over the Texas abortion law has focused on its unusual structure and whether it improperly limits how the law can be challenged in court. Texas lawmakers handed responsibility for enforcing the law to private citizens, rather than state officials.The case raised a complex set of issues about who, if anyone, can sue over the law in federal court, the typical route for challenges to abortion restrictions.Newsom's gun proposal would first have to pass California's state Legislature before it could become law. The Legislature is not in session now and is scheduled to reconvene in January. It usually takes about eight months for new bills to pass the Legislature, barring special circumstances.State Sen. Brian Dahle, a Republican from Bieber, would oppose the plan but predicted it could probably pass California's Democratic-dominated state Legislature. He said the proposal was most likely a stunt for Newsom to win favor with his progressive base of voters ahead of a possible run for president in the future."The right to bear arms is different than the right to have an abortion. The right to have an abortion is not a constitutional amendment. So I think he's way off base," Dahle said. "I think he's just using it as an opportunity to grandstand."But Newsom's Saturday night declaration is a fulfilled prophecy for some gun rights groups who had predicted progressive states would attempt to use Texas' abortion law to restrict access to guns. That's why the Firearms Policy Coalition, a nonprofit group that advocates for gun rights, filed a brief with the U.S. Supreme Court opposing the Texas law."If Texas succeeds in its gambit here, New York, California, New Jersey, and others will not be far behind in adopting equally aggressive gambits to not merely chill but to freeze the right to keep and bear arms," attorney Erik Jaffe wrote on behalf of the Firearms Policy Coalition.Additional reporting by The Associated Press.

SB 8’s legal mechanism grants enforcement to anyone willing to sue doctors and others who “aid or abet” women in obtaining an abortion after six weeks. Texas law, which Florida and Ohio have cited in their attempts to tighten abortion restrictions, also allows private citizens who sue to collect $10,000 if they win their lawsuit, a provision critics have denounced as a bounty hunting and vigilantism.

Bad law makes for bad precedents. SB 8 has opened the door for states to infringe on gun rights, voting rights, religious and other constitutional rights.

Some may make a distinction between gun rights as mentioned in the Constitution and interpreted by courts to apply to individual ownership and abortion choice that court rulings have interpreted as an extension of a constitutional right. But a law that by design doesn’t permit recourse by those impacted is a step in the wrong direction and edges closer to allowing creative schemes to nullify a wide variety of federal authority and individual rights.

Or as Justice Sonia Sotomayor wisely asked: “What are federal courts to do if, for example, a State effectively prohibits worship by a disfavored religious minority through crushing ‘private’ litigation burdens amplified by skewed court procedures, but does a better job than Texas of disclaiming all enforcement by state officials? Perhaps nothing at all, says this Court.”

The ramification of vigilante lawsuits that could stem from this bad law should be of concern to anyone who cares about balance and protection of individual rights. California has cast its spin on how to privatize enforcement, and other states are looking for a way they can use the enforcement portion of the Texas law to skirt accountability, review and the rule of law. Privatized enforcement dangerously undermines these key elements that hold together our judicial system and nation around certain basic tenets, and should not be encouraged.

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