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Guns collected by police
Guns collected by police
The pile of guns collected on Saturday. Courtesy San Diego Police

 A San Diego federal judge ruled this week that part of California’s recent gun bill modeled after Texas’ law allowing private citizens to sue abortion providers is unconstitutional, drawing a statement of gratitude from Gov. Gavin Newsom.

On Monday, U.S. District Judge Roger Benitez blocked the fee-shifting provision of SB 1327, which was signed into law by Newsom in July. The law allows Californians to sue those making, selling, transporting or distributing assault weapons and ghost guns in the same manner Texas’ SB 8 allows its citizens to sue abortion doctors and clinics.

SB 1327’s fee-shifting provision holds that those challenging California gun laws must prevail on all their claims or pay the state’s attorneys’ fees, which firearms proponents say will essentially prevent citizens from bringing forth litigation without incurring a massive financial burden.

Newsom, who has criticized Benitez in the past for his rulings that have largely favored gun advocates, said in a statement, “I want to thank Judge Benitez. We have been saying all along that Texas’ anti-abortion law is outrageous. Judge Benitez just confirmed it is also unconstitutional. The provision in California’s law that he struck down is a replica of what Texas did, and his explanation of why this part of SB 1327 unfairly blocks access to the courts applies equally to Texas’ SB 8. There is no longer any doubt that Texas’ cruel anti-abortion law should also be struck down.”

Benitez wrote in his ruling that filings from Newsom’s office stated SB 1327 is “identical or virtually identical” to SB 8, though the judge wrote that among the differences were that California’s “applies to laws affecting a clearly enumerated constitutional right set forth in our nation’s founding documents.”

Benitez declined in his ruling to address the constitutionality question when it came to SB 8’s provision.

“Whether these distinctions are enough to save the Texas fee-shifting provision from judicial scrutiny remains to be seen,” Benitez wrote. “And although it would be tempting to comment on it, the Texas law is not before this court for determination.”

— City News Service

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Ellen Bullock