Texas school shooting leads California to step up gun control action

Sacramento, California - Governor Gavin Newsom and top legislative Democrats pledged Wednesday to expedite more than a dozen bills aimed at reducing gun violence in California.

California's governor Gavin Newsom is leading the charge on new and stricter gun laws.
California's governor Gavin Newsom is leading the charge on new and stricter gun laws.  © Collage: ROBYN BECK & PATRICK T. FALLON / AFP

The lawmakers promised to quickly pass laws that would allow private citizens to sue firearm manufacturers and distributors, as well as require school officials to investigate credible threats of a mass shooting, following the deadly attack Tuesday on an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas that killed 21.

"We're going to control the controllable, the things we have control of," Newsom said during an event at the state Capitol. "California leads this national conversation. When California moves, other states move in the same direction."

The governor, joined at the Sacramento event by Senate President Pro Tem Toni Atkins (D-San Diego), and Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon (D-Lakewood), announced plans to deviate from the typical legislative process and take fast action on more than a dozen bills currently pending in the California Legislature, amid an outcry for stronger restrictions on guns and rising anger over inaction at the federal level.

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The mass shooting in the Texas elementary school Tuesday prompted the leaders to take a harder look at how California could step up its efforts to address gun violence, they said.

California steps up the fight for gun law reform

The State Capitol in Sacramento, California.
The State Capitol in Sacramento, California.  © JOSH EDELSON / AFP

California already has some of the most stringent firearm rules in the country, with dozens of laws on the books that restrict who can buy a gun and when, as well as what kind of background checks are required for purchase.

This year's proposals are intended to empower private citizens, school officials and local governments by holding the gun industry accountable to the victims of mass shootings.

The most sweeping measure, Senate Bill 1327, would allow private citizens to sue gun manufacturers or distributors and anyone who imports or sells assault weapons, .50 BMG rifles, and ghost guns. The bill is modeled after a Texas law that bans most abortions after six weeks and authorizes citizen-led civil lawsuits against providers and clinics.

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The bill passed the Senate on Tuesday on a 24-10 vote, and now heads to the Assembly. It was prompted by Newsom, who urged state lawmakers in December to use the US Supreme Court's refusal to block the Texas abortion law as the impetus to craft a similar bill in California that would target the gun industry.

California governor has continued to call out Texas

"This is preventable. Our inaction is a choice," said California governor Gavin Newsom after Tuesday's school shooting in Ulvade, Texas.
"This is preventable. Our inaction is a choice," said California governor Gavin Newsom after Tuesday's school shooting in Ulvade, Texas.  © Patrick T. FALLON / AFP

Another prominent measure on the list for fast-tracked action is Senate Bill 906, which would require school officials to investigate any threats of a mass shooting and report the potential violence to law enforcement. The investigation could include searching a student's property, such as a book bag, car or school locker.

Other proposals include a bill to limit firearm advertising to minors, and another that further cracks down on ghost guns in California.

State Attorney General Rob Bonta is sponsoring another high-profile bill that would authorize the California Department of Justice, local governments, and gun violence survivors to sue gun manufacturers, importers and dealers if they are allegedly "irresponsible, reckless, and negligent in the sale or marketing of their products in California," according to an analysis of the proposal, Assembly Bill 1594.

Newsom and legislative leaders said they plan to pass and sign as many of the bills as possible before they break for a summer recess on July 1.

The Texas shooting prompted Newsom to call out Republicans on Tuesday, echoing frustrations expressed across the nation over GOP senators' refusal to take up legislation to strengthen gun laws.

"Another shooting," Newsom tweeted. "And the GOP won't do a damn thing about it. Who the hell are we if we cannot keep our kids safe. This is preventable. Our inaction is a choice. We need nationwide, comprehensive, commonsense gun safety now."

The governor often compares efforts in California to prevent gun violence to much looser firearm laws in conservative states. He has repeatedly called out Texas officials, in particular, for glorifying guns, restricting abortion rights, enacting policies that target transgender students, and resisting public health measures to stem the spread of Covid-19.

But even with strong gun laws, California continues to experience some of the deadliest mass shootings in the nation.

A gunman attacked a lunch banquet at a Taiwanese church in Laguna Woods in a hate crime earlier this month, killing one person and wounding five others. That mass shooting came just weeks after another deadly shooting in Sacramento that killed six people and injured a dozen more just blocks from the state Capitol.

Cover photo: Collage: ROBYN BECK & PATRICK T. FALLON / AFP

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